TRIPLE ESPRESSO: Friendship that endures past the failures

TRIPLE ESPRESSO: Friendship that endures past the failures

Let’s Hear it for the “Losers” 

by Michael Pearce Donley


I’ve done two shows at Park Square Theatre, and they have a number of things in common. 2 Pianos 4 Hands, and Triple Espresso were both written by the original performers of the show, (I, along with my partners Bob Stromberg and Bill Arnold, co-wrote Triple Espresso). I play the piano in both. Both contain an unlikely callback to the movie Chariots of Fire. Both contain all-male casts. Both are comedies with heart.

Both shows are about “losers.”

2 Pianos 4 Hands follows the story of 2 friends/rivals who strive to become renowned concert pianists, only to realize they’re just not good enough.

Peter Vitale and Michael Pierce Donley in 2 PIANOS, 4 HANDS. 2014.  Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma.

Triple Espresso follows a trio of comic performers from the 1970s hoping to make it big. One blunder after another leads them to the edge of obscurity, culminating in a career-ending performance on live national television.

Bill Arnold, Michael Pierce Donley, and Bob Stromberg in TRIPLE ESPRESSO

I’m drawn to the “losers” in these shows. I put the word in quotes because one can lose a dream but win at humanity.

2 Pianos 4 Hands ends with two friends drinking beer, listening to a Vladimir Horowitz recording. My character spits out, “I could have played Carnegie Hall!” Then reality sets in. We are not the best in the world, the best in the country, the best in the city; but maybe, just maybe, we’re the best in the neighborhood. We smile at each other, go to our pianos, and for the love of the music, play our hearts out to end the show.

Triple Espresso is a show about friendship that endures past the failures. It’s the kind of friendship that will live beyond the final number, because despite all the mistakes, these guys have a genuine affection for each other. The one thing they really share is their collective failure, and at final glance, they survived together. That’s not so bad.

Because here’s the thing. Almost none of us is the best. 99% of us are not the best athlete, the best artist, the best business leader, the best parent, friend, student, lover, human. That’s a lot of “losers,” if you think about it. We may be good, very good, even great, but there’s always someone better, right?

Fellow actor/musician Peter Vitale and I never did a perfect performance of the final piece in 2 Pianos 4 Hands. When we played that 8-minute Bach concerto, we really were coaxing each other through, leading and following, making mistakes and encouraging each other forward, and when the final chord was played, the breath we released was real. It was the feeling of being alive, the best in the neighborhood.

After performing Triple Espresso over 3500 times, my partners and I still mess up. We’re not perfect performers or comedians, but we own this little piece of stage for 2 hours every night and evoke genuine laughter, not because we’re perfect but because we’re honest.

So, let’s hear it for the 99% of us who are not the very best. I kind of like us this way.

logo for Triple Espresso - stylized coffee cup and hand drawn type in black, red, and grey on white backgroundTriple Espresso is on stage at Park Square Theatre through January 13.

Family-friendly fun for all ages!

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Michael Pearce Donley is a theater artist, singer, pianist and writer. He works full time at Eagle Brook Church as Associate Creative Director. He and his wife Joy live in Maplewood.


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