'Looped' tiresome; new cast revives 'God of Carnage'

Brian Hutchison, left, is Danny, and Valerie Harper

Brian Hutchison, left, is Danny, and Valerie Harper portrays Tallulah Bankhead in Matthew Lombardo's "Looped," now playing at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre in New York. (Credit: AP Photo)

Fans of Valerie Harper (also known as the affably neurotic Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") and aficionados of Tallulah Bankhead (also known via legions of female impersonators) are not likely to be enough to justify the Broadway transfer of "Looped" from Pasadena and West Palm Beach.

At least Harper comes out better than poor Tallulah in Matthew Lombardo's tiresome new biographical comedy/psycho-drama. "Looped" is loosely based on a long day in 1965, when Bankhead - on the skids at 63 - staggered into an L.A. recording studio to loop, or re-record, a line for her last terrible movie.

This is hagiography with an emphasis on the hag. Tallulah, who had long since become a caricature of her raunch-ball self, gets to talk dirty, swig whiskey, snort cocaine, wave cigarettes, bellow and pass judgment on the actors and actresses with whom she had sex.

Harper does all this with an admirable lack of inhibition, attempting to locate enough tenderness for the wild woman to protect her from being a total grotesque. What the play does not allow Harper to do, alas, is keep Lombardo from ignoring Bankhead's considerable theater career and her fascinating politics. Instead, he concocts a weepy confession from the hostile editor (Brian Hutchison) and diminishes her deep eccentricities into quips and an over-compensation for not being able to have children. She had to be more interesting than this.

'Looped': Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St., 212-239-6200, loopedtheplay.com. Tickets: $25-$111.50.

Bottom line: Hagiography with the emphasis on the hag

 

'God of Carnage'

When the original four-star cast, including James Gandolfini, left "God of Carnage" in November, the competent replacement cast could not quite dazzle over the weaknesses in Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning dark domestic comedy of unraveling civilization.

Well, take another look. The new quartet may not generate the frisson of the original, but the almost-new foursome has relocated the giddy brutality while infusing an even darker viciousness to the humor. Jeff Daniels, so good as the original's slick lawyer, has made a virtuoso switch to Gandolfini's role as a scarier dead-spirit of a hardware salesman. Dylan Baker is gleeful, sleaze personified as the lawyer. Janet Mc-Teer is formidably terrifying as the high-minded wife, while Lucy Liu finds a new sexual power to the mousy wife.

'God of Carnage': Jacobs Theatre 242 W. 45th St., 212-239-6200, godofcarnage.com. Cost: $66.50-$121.50.

Bottom line: Dazzling all over again

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