Stage and screen star Valerie Harper returns to the New York stage as the late icon Tallulah Bankhead in "Looped." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
Tallulah Bankhead was quite a piece of work, as witty as she was decadent. Both sides of the late actress’s extravagant persona are on ample display in "Looped," a small play that offers some big laughs, a gargantuan performance and little else.
"Looped" takes place in 1965, near the end of Bankhead’s life. The actress has been asked to go to a sound stage in Hollywood and "loop," or re-record, one line from a film in which she was featured. A simple task for most turns into a Sisyphean nightmare for the sound editor in charge of getting it done.
By this point in her life, Bankhead had established herself as an undisciplined lush hooked on booze, drugs and sex. She seemed to be in a perpetual state of inebriation, hence the fittingly title, "Looped." What should have taken minutes drags into hours, as the sound editor and a colleague frustratingly wait for Bankhead to get her act together.
And what an act it is. Valerie Harper, delivering a no-holds-barred performance, seems to be having a blast flinging off-color zingers and putdowns with the greatest of ease. In her diva getup designed to period perfection by William Ivey Long, she channels Bankhead to the hilt. At times it seems that she’s overdoing it, Bankhead apparently was just as outrageous.
It's a pity the show doesn't end with the laughs of Act One, because Act Two attempts to inject pathos. That's where the play runs into trouble, as it turns from a wildly enjoyable comedy into a clunky melodrama.
The other two performers have largely thankless roles, especially the always-reliable Michael Mulheren, who’s relegated to a glassed-in sound booth most of the time. Brian Hutchison does a fine job as the beleaguered sound editor, but it’s a part that forces him to do little more than play foil to the diva.
"Looped" aspires to be something more than what it is, a minor comedy about an incredibly self-indulgent celebrity. Playwright Matthew Lombardo nails the humor, but unfortunately tries to sober it up.