Far less shocking than seeing Valerie Harper play boozin’, druggin’ Tallulah Bankhead onstage is hearing her voice stripped of the Bronx accent she perfected on Rhoda. Turns out the actress (who grew up in Oregon) is a polymath when it comes to accents—she nailed Golda Meir’s Milwaukee-by-way-of-Russia pattern a couple years back, and in Looped, she unspools Bankhead’s old-timey Hollywood (with a trace of Alabama) a lot more easily than Bankhead could hit her lines. Which is why the star often found herself in a recording studio, “looping” in her dialogue for films; the Broadway-bound show finds her doing so one last time and peeling her engineer’s life like a cocktail onion in the process. Arena Stage warns of the show’s “adult language”—stay away if you wince every time Rhoda mentions her “bad pyubuhtee” on the show’s opening speech.
AT NOON; TO JUNE 28 AT THE LINCOLN THEATRE, 1215 U ST. NW. $27–$62. (202) 488-3300.