Through November 20|
LOOPED The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park
Hollywood’s studio system didn’t produce true rebels, just rebels knowing who wrote their checks.
Matthew Lombardo’s “Looped” is a look at a rebel who interacted with the studios but focused on the stage or radio…Tallulah Bankhead.
She was the product of an Alabama political dynasty of the 19th Century, with a father who wound up as speaker of the House.
She wound up as the life of the party.
For decades, if a party occurred, Bankhead was likely there, dressed or undressed, stoned or straight, heading home with a souvenir, male or female.
Lombardo’s play is built around her last movie, “Die! Die! My Darling.”
The premise is that there is one line which needs to be re-recorded because there was a problem in the shoot and it can’t be used.
So, she’s called into the sound studio, to stand under a mike, look up at a screen, speak the lines in synch with her on-screen face so sound engineer Steve (Elliot Fox) can put it on tape, so film editor Danny Miller (James Cichocki) can edit the right words into what will go onto the big screen.
There’s a slight problem, Tallulah is running late, hours late, and no one knows where she is and when she will show up.
It’s driving both crazy, as well as some studio executive who wants to know why the delay in recording one tangled line.
Hours late, she shows up and can’t get her line correct, perhaps deliberately.
She sucks up some blow and swallows booze and rambles on about her history, before once again disappearing.
Playwright Lombardo makes some plot points with the recording studio end of conversations.
The phone gimmick is yet another example of how well-constructed this play is, it moves along telling the story with a mix of humor and pathos in the scene-setting, never giving way to some circular event.
While Tallulah is the focus, Miller remains at the center, doing his job and dealing with serious personal problems in an era where different was difficult, even in Hollywood.
The solution is obvious although it’s a wandering way to: Cut. Print.
New Phoenix impresario Richard Lambert has a strong cast and a good set from Chris Wilson.
The biggest problem with “Looped” is one beyond Lambert’s purview, the passage of time since the events surrounding this movie and this time in the movie industry.
Most of Bankhead’s movies were in black and white, featuring stars only recognizable to Turner Classic Movies geeks.
That’s why Kittsley and Cichocki’s work has a faint image of performing in aspic.
It’s hard to establish that mystical relationship with characters you don’t recognize.
That’s too bad because these are real people dealing with significant issues.
They’re good and “Looped” is worth seeing.
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