Least substantial of all the week’s options, and every bit as predictable as A Sleeping Country, Matthew Lombardo’s Broadway-bound Looped invites the audience onto a Hollywood lot for an afternoon with Tallulah Bankhead, who’s doing her best to re-record (or “loop”) a line of dialogue for what the outré-classic record tells us will be her final film. Trapped with her, as she flubs and filibusters and hoovers up the cocaine, are a patient sound engineer (Michael Karl Orenstein) and an increasingly annoyed film editor (Jay Goede), whose secrets Tallu clearly covets and whose skin she’s determined to get under.
There is no question that she will, and there is no surprise whatsoever in what she eventually teases out of him. What is a surprise is how much fun the damn evening is anyway: Valerie Harper, she of Rhoda and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, sinks her teeth cheerfully into the persona of one of mid-century Hollywood’s biggest, baddest broads, preening and parading and knocking back the whiskies like she’s landed in one of Scheherazade’s oases after a fortnight among the Bedouins. The vulgarities come like clock-ticks, the punch lines like a sly boxer’s check-hooks—and while the fastidious will surely point out that it’s not much in the way of theater, it certainly is a hell of an entertaining night in the theater.