Tallulah Bankhead is the Femme Fatale against which all other femme fatales are judged. Even in her later years, after she became better known for her outrageous behaviour than her stage craft, she was a woman to be reckoned with. In taking on the role of Tallulah Bankhead Martha Lott has accepted a challenge; one which she meets with aplomb.
Looped by Matthew Lombard is based on a true incident, one in which Tallulah took an entire day to put down one line of dialogue in a film – one which was essential to the production. On such a seemingly slim basis the play holds the audience throughout, due to a large extent to an excellent script, a script which the actors played to its strengths.
On opening night there was a palpable sense of anticipation. Many of the audience would have seen Martha Lott in Grounded and That Boy, both plays in which she excelled. They were hoping for a great performance as Martha became the forthright, vulgar, vulnerable and ultimately empathetic Tallulah. Nor were they to be disappointed. From her entrance, trailing a fur coat, to her jaunty exit, she gave a virtuosic performance.
Her foil on stage, the uptight film editor, assigned to oversee the putting down of that one essential line, Chris Asimos, playing Danny Miller, held his own. As his personal conflicts were revealed, coaxed and dragged from him, he transformed from an emotionally inhibited person to a human. Their interaction also allowed Martha to show another side to Tallulah, revealing much of her own story.
A highlight of her performance was the transformation into Blanche Du Bois from Street Car Named Desire. Stronger accent, different stance and even her face looking different, Martha created the other side of Tallulah Bankhead – the talented stage actor.
Robert Cusenza as Steve, the sound technician, a voice from the controls, sorely tried through the long process, was a pragmatic and phlegmatic observer to the contest between Danny and Tallulah. Not that there was any doubt who would be victorious.
Peter Goers, as Director and Set Designer showed that he has not lost his touch.
Kesson Riley as Sound and Light Technician also deserves a tick of approval.
Looped provides the actors with a vehicle to shine, and they shone very brightly indeed.
The Studio, Holden Street Theatres
until 20 May