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Sociologist Malcolm Gladwell says to be a success at anything takes 10,000 hours of honing your skills (roughly a decade). "The classical musician who starts playing the violin at four," he writes in Outliers: The Story of Success, "is debuting at Carnegie Hall at 15 or so."

That's the theory, and the dream.

As young Canadians, Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra put in the hours at the piano: scales, arpeggios, etudes, various teachers (with various quirks and biases), recitals. During the days and years, as they practiced to become concert pianists, they also longed to be elsewhere. Neither made the grade.

They became actors. When they discovered the mutual talent, they wrote dual autobiographies of their 10,000 hours at the piano.

2 Pianos 4 Hands has become so popular it has been produced hundreds of times around the world, and performed by many others playing Greenblatt and Dykstra (a positive straight away: the show gives trained classical pianists - a dying breed, say some - a gig!).

At North Coast Rep., Carl Danielsen and Jonathan Monro are Richard and Ted. Along with being accomplished musicians, they have acting skills, and are funny. They combine these talents when they play a duet, as kids, on the same piano but with only one chair. They contort and climb over each other and never miss a note.

For the most part, 2 Pianos is feather-lite. But when each young man has his dream rejected, the stories dig deeper.

Embedded into the 90-minute piece are basic lessons about music: chords, sharps and flats, time signatures, even playing arpeggios one-handed. The duo concludes with the first movement of Bach's "Concerto in D Minor." They not only demonstrate their combined skills with precision, they also provide a summary of what they've been teaching.

Old joke: asked how to get to Carnegie Hall, a master musician replied, "practice!"

A question runs throughout the show: what would a performance of the dream - to play piano at Carnegie Hall - sound like? 2 Pianos provides the astonishing answer: a recording of 75-year-old Vladimir Horowitz playing Franz Liszt with what sounds like six hands.

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