Tallulah Bankhead lives again in this brilliant production
Presented by: Holden Street Theatres Company
Reviewed: 6 May, 2023
Tallulah Bankhead: star of films (both ‘Silent’ and ‘Talkies’); Broadway star and darling of the West End stage; the inspiration for Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire; believed to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s villainess, Cruella de Vil, from 101 Dalmatians; also believed to be who Bette Davis used to portray Margo Channing in All About Eve; openly bisexual; cocaine addict; and the originator of classic quotations such as “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner”, “I’m pure as the driven slush”, “My father warned me about men and booze but he never said anything about women and cocaine” and her famous last words “Codeine… Bourbon…”.
The storyline of Matthew Lombardo’s Looped is simple and based partly in fact. Set in a Los Angeles recording studio in the Summer of 1965, Tallulah Bankhead has been called in to read or ‘loop’ a line for her last film ever, the trashy Die! Die! My Darling! for the film’s editor. The plot may be deceptively simple but the underlying secrets of the two characters are anything but.
There are some shows that are so polished and perfect in every detail that one can’t believe that one is lucky enough to be watching them. This production is very much so one of those magic moments of theatre. It has all bases covered brilliantly.
Lombardo’s script is never boring, moves along at a cracking pace and is immensely funny, but with beautiful human dramatic moments arising at just the right time to show what secrets can hide in all of us. Director Peter Goers, like Lombardo, shows us that he understands the legend that was and is Miss Tallulah (as she preferred to be called). Goers also quite obviously understands his actors and trusts them implicitly. There is no action or move under or over done and no pause too long or too short. This is an actor’s play and Goers lets his actors perform.
And what performances!! Let’s start with the lady herself, Tallulah Bankhead, as portrayed by Martha Lott. Another quote from Tallulah was “Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”. Well, it’s clear after seeing Lott’s performance that Bankhead never met her. Lott IS Tallulah¸ from the moment she makes a star’s entrance uttering one of the best first lines ever, through her exaggerated body movements and that wonderfully forced voice that made people wonder if Bankhead was in fact a drag queen, to her noble exit. This is a tour de force portrayal by Lott who never puts an acting foot wrong – she is absolutely stunning, superb and magnificent, giving generously of herself to co-star Chris Asimos and to us, the audience. A Brava performance!
Sporting a fantastic West Coast American accent, Asimos as film editor Danny Miller, is equally brilliant. We feel his pain and frustration of dealing with this very difficult star and legend. His character development is a master class in showing an audience layer upon layer of hidden depths. It is an enormous pleasure to watch these two performers strut their well-honed skills.
It needs to be mentioned that there is one other actor in the show paying the unseen character of Steve the Sound Engineer. Using only his voice to paint us a clear picture of this highly likable character, Robert Cusenza is excellent. I think he needs his own sequel.
I cannot rave or speak highly enough of this production. It is the inaugural production for Holden Street Theatres Company and let’s hope for many, many more. Look out for Marsha Mason’s night, Mother and Mary Chase’s Harvey coming soon to a Holden Street Theatre near you!
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: The Studio – Holden Street Theatres
Season: Until May 20, 2023
Tickets: From $25.00