OH, DAHLING: Tallulah Bankhead.
In 1965, Hollywood grande dame Tallulah Bankhead once notoriously took eight hours in a recording studio to tape a single line of dialogue for her final film, Die! Die! My Darling!
The Lifeboat actress's melodramatic session—full of "dahlings" and cleavage and bottomless drinking—is a fitting fall premiere for Triangle Productions, a company as notoriously outspoken as Tallulah herself. With past seasons that have featured dirty-mouthed housewives singing, "Eat your fucking corn flakes!" and onstage re-enactments of the Kent State shootings, Triangle lives up to its reputation for disrobing the recent past. But perhaps Looped does the job of capturing Tallulah's lengthy career all too well.
Margie Boulé's Tallulah (don't you dare call her "Miss Bankhead") is perfectly on point. Boulé belts "baby" and "dahling" in an uncomfortably accurate impression of the foghorn voice that made Tallulah famous. Throwing her head back with a stilted yet flirty laugh and bending over to reveal her bosom, Boulé captures the actress's campy antics without seeming fake herself. Telling awkward sex jokes as a stalling tactic, Triangle's Tallulah convincingly drives her film editor Danny Miller (David Sargent) and sound engineer Steve (James Sharinghousen) within an inch of losing their sanity. Unfortunately, Looped's script has a similar effect on us in our seats.
Despite Boul's bravado and Triangle's authentic 1960s set, Matthew Lombardoâs script canât be helped. Tallulahâs inebriation takes center stage. Fueled by a stiff cocktail of booze, pills and coke, she's a never-ending reel of uncouth comments—cocaine isnât habit-forming. I should know—when not disappearing on Miller and Steve for hours at a time. While the divaâs behavior is hastily explained by her shitty lifeâa dead mother and abusive, alcoholic fatherâthereâs no deeper or more interesting reflection. The only redemption is her one poignant monologue, when Tallulah voices her regret at turning down the role of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, a part her friend Tennessee Williams wrote for her. The pain of Miller's closeted life is hinted at, as he slumps over a coffee table and tells Tallulah the story of his broken family. Besides Sargent's unconvincing sobs, however, the script leaves this dramatic mine unexplored.
Looped isn't about lost opportunities, life's regrets or the struggle of repressed identity. No, this show is a spot-on re-enactment of those grueling eight hours, which culminated in one meager line of dialogue for a camp thriller now largely forgotten. We get a show as frustrating to watch at times as the real-life process might've been. Intentionally campy at best, unbearably slow at worst, Looped is as self-indulgent as Tallulah was. If only we were as loaded.
SEE IT: Looped is at Triangle Productions, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd., 239-5919. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 pm Sundays through Sept. 26. $15.