The current production of gay playwright Matthew Lombardi’s “Looped,” which runs through March 17 at the Hippodrome in Baltimore, is a bittersweet affair. Although it’s a wildly entertaining show, an ailing Valerie Harper, who has acknowledged a cancer diagnosis, had to pull out shortly before it opened.
In her place and starring as Tallulah Bankhead is “Hart to Hart” actress Stefanie Powers. The sweet part is that she succeeds so triumphantly in the role — she’s equally as good as Harper, who played the part in Washington nearly four years ago, and produces an uncanny portrayal of Bankhead that’s so accomplished, after a few minutes one forgets one is watching Powers on stage. And it’s easier said than done — this is the kind of part that is easy enough to master on a drag queen or sketch comedy level, but to imbibe Bankhead with humanity, is a bit trickier. Powers succeeds in spades. Even more astounding, she learned the dialogue-heavy part in just two weeks.
It helps, perhaps, that she was Bankhead’s costar in the 1965 film “Die Die My Darling.” The setting of “Looped” is Bankhead — pretty looped herself at this point — attempting to dub a line from the film in post-production. She has trouble getting it. Hilarity and unexpected poignance ensue. Her foil is Danny, solidly played by Brian Hutchinson, and, in the sound booth, a deadpan Steve (Matthew Montelongo). Rob Ruggiero directs.
And though it would be giving too much away to divulge details, Bankhead’s notorious bisexuality isn’t the only LGBT theme in the piece.
Go here for tickets and show times.