You don't have to know much about classical music to relish "Concert Pianist," a clever, humorous and touching one-man, multi-character piece written and acted by Barry Neikrug at the Court Theatre in Los Angeles.
Neikrug's story of growing up in a family of musicians and desperately searching for a "genius teacher" who can help him make up for lost years of not practicing unfolds without obscurities and extends its meanings generally.
Mom and Dad, each crazy in distinct ways, for instance, saddle him with familiar neuroses, demanding expectations and zero probability of ever achieving them. Others in the cast of eccentrics--all brightly evoked with distinct winks, nods, accents and postures--guarantee that the two-act journey from Brussels to London to Texas will be filled with entertaining, if exaggerated events.
To set off these dramatic scenes, Neikrug periodically plays short passages of works by Schubert, Mozart, Bach and other composers on an upright Yamaha. He is a trained and competent--but not a distinguished--pianist.
The last minutes veer precipitously into a serious and disturbing direction, however. Neikrug finds his genius teacher, but the results are not the expected ones. The teacher is monumentally and banally self-absorbed; he sometimes talks in gobbledygook. Still, he also elucidates Brahms brilliantly, if cruelly, and does effect change in Neikrug's playing. So it is a bit of a shock to hear the outcome of the seven-year apprenticeship.
Neikrug appears to drop the character masks at this point to speak directly and simply. It is touching, but dramatically problematic because he explains rather than shows.
Joe Cacaci directed.
\o7 * "Concert Pianist," Court Theatre, 722 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. Sundays-Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Ends July 5. $15. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours. \f7