Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 10, 2013


The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through May 12, 2013
by Jennifer Curran

Tallula Bankhead was the first. Notorious for her outrageous lifestyle, that rasp and baritone voice; she was the original crude, hard drinking, pill popping cougar character viewers see on nearly every sitcom (think "Two and a Half Men" and "Arrested Development") lately. “Looped” brings Tallula back to life in big, brash, over the top, vaudevillian style.

First appearing on Broadway under the direction of Rob Ruggeiro, who directs the tour production as well, and starred Valerie Harper, who won a Tony for the role, “Looped” is more comedic character study than biography. Valerie Harper’s recent tragic diagnosis with brain cancer meant she would not be able to tour. This sad turn delayed the opening of “Looped” and brought to the role the wonderful Stefanie Powers.

Powers, with precious few rehearsals, brings Tallula to blinding life. She delights in her role and has more fun than she ought to be having. She sidles across the stage in Tallula’s “feet enter first” manner of moving across a room. Shoulders tipped back, hips forward and a veritable Jessica Rabbit is about to cross to center stage. She does it with no effort and it leaves one wondering why nobody else walks that way.

“Looped” (written by Matthew Lombardo) takes place in a 1960’s era sound room (set design by Adrian W. Jones) where Ms. Bankhead has been asked to come in and record a single line of dialogue for what would become her last film, “Die, Die My Darling.”

Instead, our main diva takes the opportunity to riddle the sound editor, Danny Miller, (played by a wonderful Brian Hutchison), with her…well, herself. Hours later and inebriated, her inability to simply deliver the line, "And so Patricia, as I was telling you, that deluded rector has in literal effect closed the church to me” nearly drives Danny Miller and his sound engineer Steve, (played by Matthew Montelongo) out of their straight-man trees.

“Looped” is great fun and the cast, while still sporting that showroom shine, is strong. With a few more times around the block our heroine and her sound-room victims will bring newly discovered moments and perhaps fill in the spaces that the audience so desperately needs topped off.