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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
LOOPED
at the Lyceum

ACTRESS OFF THE RAILS
By MATT WINDMAN

  Valerie Harper/ Ph: Carol Rosegg

The Broadway comedy Looped is technically not a one-woman show, but it may as well be. Matthew Lombardo's play is essentially a star-vehicle for Valerie Harper, who played Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the spin-off "Rhoda." While Harper's performance is impressive, the play is just a collection of one-liners and sexual innuendos constructed around a flimsy plot.
 
Harper plays notorious Hollywood legend Tallulah Bankhead, who is better remembered for her boozy, drugged-up personality and open bisexuality than her acting skills. The parallels between Bankhead and modern celebs like Lindsay Lohan are obvious.
 
The play is inspired by a true incident where it took the 63-year-old Bankhead eight hours to redub a single line of dialogue for the 1965 cult film "Die! Die! My Darling!" Bankhead is joined in the recording studio by the film's editor and sound engineer, who are less than happy with Bankhead's campy theatrics.
 
Bankhead's numerous zingers are dirty and delicious: “Cocaine isn’t habit-forming. I should know, I’ve been using it for years." "Of course I have a drinking problem. Whenever I'm not drinking? Oh, honey, it's a problem."
 
While Act 1 is full of lightweight humor, Act 2 turns into a confessional therapy session where the conservative film editor spills his repressed secrets and Bankhead admits she is terminally ill. It comes across as a contrived, failed attempt to make the play into something other than a stand-up comedy act.
 
Even so, Harper delivers a detailed performance that goes beyond a campy impersonation. In addition to Bankhead's husky voice and bombastic style, she captures a lurking sadness that keeps the character credibly grounded. Her co-star, Brian Hutchison, is pretty awful as the film editor, and Michael Mulheren is trapped behind a glass wall in the thankless role of the sound engineer.
 

 


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