Today Tallulah is synonymous with drama queen. In "Looped" on Broadway, you learn why: the first glimpse of Valerie Harper, television's soft, Mary Tyler Moore sidekick Rhoda, as screen legend Tallulah Bankhead, wearing a full length mink, blue satin dress, diamond brooch, and crocodile bag screams it, as she enters a recording studio late for a looping session-- indeed loopy, bellowing "Fuck Los Angeles!" Her Bentley minus GPS as this is 1965 got lost in the canyons.
Referring to one advantage of the East coast: New York is built for idiots, she presses on, referring to numbered streets, and then brings the joke home: "If you get lost in Manhattan, you don't deserve to be found."
Deploying one zinger after another-"Bisexual: Buy me something and I'll be sexual"-- Harper's Tallulah tosses her head coquettishly, bats her false lashes, vamps and grimaces, kicks back some scotch, snorts cocaine, and befriends the film editor named Danny, a character invented by the playwright Matthew Lombardo, shaping a drama out of her drama. Just getting this uber-diva to deliver a single line of garbled dialogue from "Die! Die! My Darling!," her last film, a flop that is now a cult classic, Danny verges on a nervous breakdown.
Delineating two kinds of men, "those who want to fuck me and those who want to be me," she asks Danny, "Which one are you?" Neither, he replies, losing it. Brian Hutchison as Danny does exasperated very well. In his limited role as foil for what is essentially a one-woman show, he prods, remembering her in "Streetcar," and she delivers. Bankhead may be remembered as a monster of bad behavior in real life, but under the direction of Rob Ruggiero, this weirdly affecting caricature gets a lot of laughs.
Valerie Harper's stand-out performance is the reason to see "Looped." The iconic screen legend, she epitomizes a Tallulah.