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Valerie Harper in "Looped" at the Lyceum Theatre
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Valerie Harper in "Looped" at the Lyceum Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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200 West 57th Street
New York, NY
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Tony Cacciotti, Chase Mishkin,
Bard Theatricals, Lauren Class Schneider,
Lawrence S. Toppall, Leonard Soloway

Valerie Harper
Looped, A New Comedy
(Looped Broadway Website)
(Tallulah Bankhead Bio)

At the
Lyceum Theatre
A Schubert Organization
149 West 45th Street

by Matthew Lombardo

Brian Hutchison and Michael Mulheren

Directed by Rob Ruggiero

Sets by Adrian W. Jones
Lighting by Ken Billington
Costumes by William Ivey Long
Sound by Michael Hooker & Peter Fitzgerald
Wig Design: Charles LaPointe
Casting: Jay Binder Casting
General Management: Leonard Soloway
Production Stage Manager: Bess Marie Glorioso
Production Supervisor: Arthur Siccardi & Patrick Sullivan
Press: Boneau/Bryan Brown
Assoc. Producers: Barbara Freitag & David Mirvish
Marketing: HHC Marketing

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 6, 2010

The spotlight is on Tallulah Bankhead, but it’s in a spartan recording studio, 1965 LA, and Tallulah is “looped” with cheap scotch and “looped” with sound tape. That is, the “looping” process of re-recording lines over her own visual film, when the lines need clarity or dramatization. Valerie Harper, as Tallulah, exudes the instincts of a survivor, a woman with dwindling fans, who’s hanging on for dear life to whatever script is thrown her way. I thought of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in “Sunset Boulevard”, crying for overhead lights. Here Tallulah calls for time and attention, liquor and cigarettes, and sex, if there’s any to be had. Valerie Harper is the quintessential Tallulah, with outsized hilarity and understated charm. Her lines are raunchy and blurred with inebriation, but the audience loved her, and, once again, this show was scheduled to be quickly closed. You could sense the communal despair, and I chatted with a guard in the lobby. The entire theatrical staff had been rooting for this show.

There were unfortunate pauses, as Tallulah tries and re-tries to say one entire phrase from Die! Die! My Darling, but her memory fails, thanks to countless drinks, a stash of cocaine, and little sleep. There’s also Matthew Lombardo’s unfortunate obsession with the personal life and tragedies of Danny (Brian Hutchison), who’s coordinating this film editing session, and there are tears and tribulations, passed between the two vulnerable characters, while the super-smooth Steve (Michael Mulheren) records in the upstairs booth. It does become frustrating for the audience, as take after take are aborted, when Tallulah mangles her lines, or Steve mangles the tape, but Ms. Harper’s portrayal of the fading femme fatale is worth the ticket. When I heard the audience laughing hysterically, it seemed so cruel that so many tickets would return to those who would miss this comedic creation. With all the bad news today, why not wait give this audience-approved show a chance. Adrian W. Jones’ set reconstructs the 1965 LA studio with style, and William Ivey Long’s costumes are authentic to the time. Rob Ruggiero directs the three actors for naturalness, bravado, and sentiment, depending on the moment.

My favorite lines were from Ms. Harper’s entrance, where she whines about LA’s street design, so confusing compared to Broadway’s numbered grid, and from her recitation of Ms. Bankhead’s lines as Blanche Dubois. It’s said that Ms. Bankhead’s fans felt let down during her run in Streetcar Named Desire, but Ms. Harper’s fans were clapping wildly after tonight’s performance. She should bring this show back on a smaller stage. In the current economy, laughs are priceless.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at