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Valerie Harper Wittily Channels Hollywood Bad Girl Tallulah Bankhead in ‘Looped’

By Jordan Wright

Looped reach to director

Looped reach to director

Valerie Harper wraps her considerable performing skills around the witty and uninhibited Tallulah Bankhead like a full-swing sable coat and inhabits the former screen star’s persona like a hungry spirit. Her portrayal of the imperious legend is spot on, an hilarious channeling of this Hollywood “bad girl”.

Bankhead was always a fascinating character in the same vein as Dorothy Parker, Josephine Baker and Eva Tanguy, the original “I Don’t Care Girl”. Bawdy, uncensored and drenched in bon mots, Bankhead was a brilliant but controversial leading lady.

Writer Matthew Lombardo’s “Looped” is based on an episode in a recording studio when Bankhead was asked to redo one line to be synced into the classic b-movie, ”Die! Die! My Darling!”.

Like Kathy Griffin (“My Life on the D List”), Bankhead was notorious for peppering her language with colorful four-letter words that would make a sailor blush, and Harper nails it with an uproarious performance in this over-the-top sendup.

Emotional projection

Emotional projection

Fueled by cigarettes, cocaine, pot and booze Bankhead quips, “Everyone has their vices. It’s just that mine all come out to play at the same time.” The one-liners come fast and furiously, most too raunchy to repeat. In his role as studio “suit” Danny Miller, Jay Goede, as straight man, is convincing. To his rejection of her advances she declares, “If I were hungry for a man, I would want a meal not an hors d’oeuvre!”

After the show a little old be-pearled lady beside me whispered, “She’s not like me at all. I’m very straight-laced. Oh, I wish I could be like that!” To judge by the audience’s enthusiasm it seems we’d all like to be a little like that.

Catch it before it leaves town. (Harper will be the Celebrity Grand Marshall of DC’s feathered and fabulous Gay Pride March on June 13.)

If You’re Going…


At the Lincoln Theatre until June 28

1215 U Street

Washington, DC

For ticket information call (202) 488-3300

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