Volume 93, Issue 23
Thursday, October 7, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
2P4H is 2 good 4 words
©Photo by Off Broadway Photos
ONE, TWO, THREE... WHERE'S THAT PESKY FOURTH HAND? Shari Saunders and Karen Woolridge star as sisters grappling with life and the maddening concept of counting in the Grand Theatre's production of 2 Pianos 4 Hands.
By Matt Pearson
Two pianos, four hands and one magical evening this is how the Grand Theatre has decided to open their 1999Ð00 season. After appearing in eight major centres around the world, 2 Pianos 4 Hands, co-written by Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra, made its debut in London last Friday.
The Grand's production of this story about youth and aspiration is actually a world premiere, as the lead roles are played by women for the first time in the play's history.
The story follows the lives of two young girls, Thea (Shari Saunders) and Rachel (Karen Woolridge), who grow up playing the piano. It tells of their young experiences learning from different teachers, struggling to stay focused and facing the challenges of competitive music festivals.
The story revolves around becoming a famous piano player, but anyone who has ever worked hard at something and faced challenges along the way can easily relate to the characters' struggles.
What lends the production its weight and often its humour, is the fact Saunders and Woolridge play all the characters in the show, including each other's parents, teachers and the feared adjudicator. By the show's end, it is impossible to remember how many characters each has played.
In one particularly amusing scene, the two team up to perform a duet piece at a recital. The humour grows as they try to out do each other and break into a slapstick routine, complete with hitting, pushing and pulling the bench out from underneath each other.
Even better is the actual recital, where one forgets the music and the other starts to wail uncontrollably before stomping off the stage. Without question, it is the comedic high point of the show, thanks to the brilliant banter and delivery between the female leads.
Despite this physical humour, the show manages to maintain a serious side. Both Thea and Rachel have dreams of becoming professional musicians, but each face adversity and are forced to deal with being told they aren't good enough. The poignancy of the scene in which the girls reach this realization is captured perfectly, again because of the immense acting ability of both Saunders and Woolridge.
In a powerful scene, the two characters wonder if they could have become famous pianists. They realize although they may not be the best piano players in the world, or even the city, the girls are definitely two of the best piano players in the neighbourhood. At that, they launch into a duet of Bach Minor Concerto with enough force to make any music lover, teacher or player tap their foot with glee.
The extremely basic costuming and set are effective, as they allow the audience to focus on the pure, unsaturated action on stage. Saunders and Woolridge create electricity with their dynamic, fast paced delivery of lines, rapid changes of character and fantastic finger work. Although they had a strong script and direction, it is the efforts of these two women that drive the show.
As London's premiere theatrical venue, the Grand Theatre has once again built a masterpiece. 2 Pianos 4 Hands is an outstanding show, filled with energy, music and passion. If this is a preview of what is to come this season, the future is surely bright.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999