Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Looped takes place in the summer of 1965, when an inebriated Tallulah Bankhead needed eight hours to redub (or "loop," whose double meaning provides the show's title) a single line of dialogue for her last movie, Die! Die! My Darling!. In a California sound studio, an unlucky film editor, Danny Miller, engages in a battle of the wits and wills with Bankhead in an attempt to extract the last line needed to complete the deadline hanging over his head. The colorful Bankhead is anything but focused or compliant, bit by bit wearing down the nerves of the film editor and sound engineer.
This production is certainly not about the set or costumes, as it takes place on a simple sound stage and there are no costume changes. It is about the actingand Stephanie Powers is delicious as Tallulah. Powers has mastered her signature deep, throaty speaking voice and dry delivery. She half swaggers and half staggers about the stage spewing lines like "If I had to live my life over again, I would make all the same mistakesonly sooner!" and "There's always going to be pain in life Baby, but suffering is optional!" that so defined how Bankhead carried herself through life. The fact that Stephanie Powers (who has replaced Valerie Harper due to illness) actually appeared in the film Die! Die! My Darling! alongside Bankhead may account for her uncanny ability to capture Bankhead's physical mannerisms.
Matthew Montelongo is quite funny as the sound engineer Steve. His detached one liners delivered as he looks up from his newspaper add just the right juxtaposition to Tallulah's ever present sharp tongue. Brian Hutchinson as Danny Miller is outshone by Powers in their scenes together. He appears a bit stilted at the beginning of the play, and is not believable later, when his character has an emotional meltdown. He resorts to turning away from the audience as he collapses to the floor, hiding his face in his hands rather than letting the audience see his grief through his facial expressions. Powers' polished portrayal is deserving of an equally polished stage partner.
Born on January 31, 1902, Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was an American actress of the stage and screen known for her flamboyant personality, sharp wit, and outspoken support of liberal causes. She seemed to fly in the very face of the conservative Southern background from which she sprang. She came from powerful political families. Her father was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1936 - 1940, her uncle was Senator John H. Bankhead II, and her grandfather Senator John H. Bankhead. Her performing career included 23 Broadway shows (the role of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire was written for her) and nearly as many films. She received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1944 film Lifeboat.
Bankhead circulated widely in the celebrity crowd of her day, and was a party favorite for outlandish stunts, such as doing cartwheels in a skirt while wearing no underwear or entering a soiree stark naked. She professed to have a ravenous appetite for sex, but not for a particular type. "I've tried several varieties of sex. The conventional position makes me claustrophobic. And the others give me either stiff neck or lockjaw," she said. In 1933, she nearly died following a five-hour emergency hysterectomy due to venereal disease. When she left the hospital, the frail and severally underweight Bankhead stoically said to her doctor, "Don't think this has taught me a lesson!." For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Tallulah Bankhead was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Looped appeared February 26 - March 3, 2013, at The Parker Playhouse, located at 707 NE 8th St. in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Offerings at the Parker Playhouse are in conjunction with the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Presentations of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts are sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support is also contributed by the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. The Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment Consortium is a cultural partnership between the Performing Arts Center Authority, Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Florida Grand Opera. Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and The Historic Stranahan House Museum. It is supported by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Visitors Bureau. For information on The Parker Playhouse you may contact them at 954-763-2444 or online at www.parkerplayhouse.com. For information on the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, you may contact them by phone at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org.