Yes, "Looped" is a bit of a camp-fest.
But why is that a bad thing?
The comedy centered on Tallulah Bankhead - so wiped out by drugs and drink she can't loop a line of dialog for what would be her last film - is not the stuff of high-minded drawing room witticisms.
Noooo, this is better suited for just what playwright (and Fort Lauderdale snowbird) Matthew Lombardo has written, honed and perfected for star Stefanie Powers: a bawdy, often profane tour-de-force that she winds up and knocks out of the Parker Playhouse...dah-ling.
Lombardo has come up for Tallulah (played by a Tony-nominated Valerie Harper on Broadway in 2010) some of the funniest lines - bam, bam, bam - one right after the other ("Cocaine addictive? Nonsense. I've been doing it for years.")
And Powers is terrific in delivering them, rooted to the floor with her legs planted far apart for stability, her fingers grasping, always grasping, trying to feel...something...anything. She teeters on the edge of fabulously funny and oh-so-sad, which is where all great comedy lives.
"Oh when I drink - my poor legs," says Tallulah.
"They swell," inquires Danny (played by Brian Hutchison).
"No, they open," deadpans Tallulah.
Hutchison's job for much of the first act is to keep setting them up for Powers to whack away at, and he is a pretty effective straight man, playing a film editor under the gun to finish the clunker of a film "Die, Die, My Darling" by getting a three-sheets-to-the-wind Tallulah to re-record one line of dialog.
A sound engineer named Steve (Matthew Montelongo) is a perfect acerbically dry compliment to wet blanket Danny as they wonder what inventively twisted way Tallulah will manage to turn what should take a few minutes of work into an all-day dark descension. And yes, even then the laughs keep coming.
Of course to get there, Lombardo has a bit of a sharp pivot in the second act...a sort of - huh? what? how did we get here? - moment. But even that has a nice payoff and director Rob Ruggiero layers in deeper emotional hues with surgical precision.
The only bad thing about "Looped" is that its run is all too short. It's here through Sunday before going a national tour.
Do. Not. Miss. It.
IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m. through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. 8th St. in Fort Lauderdale
Contact: 954-462-0222 or ParkerPlayhouse.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun