Matt Lombardo. Holden Street Theatre Company. 4 May 2023
Screen star Tallulah Bankhead (Martha Lott) has been called into the studio to loop (we say overdub) a line from her last film. This does not happen to plan.
Three things start to assert themselves in the difficult working relationship between Tallulah, stand in sound director Danny (Chris Asimos) and off-stage sound tech Steve (Robert Cusenza). The careful reveal of Tallulah and Danny’s inner realities, fantasies, and sense of self.
This trio of conflicting, interleaved life complexes are brilliantly managed in Director/Set Designer Peter Goers’ sublime, riveting directorial reading of Matthew Lombardo’s deceptively rich Looped.
Tallulah, the famed flaming torch bearer of rebellious living, is not having a bar of time-stressed Danny’s strict get to work attitude. He wants out of that studio as fast as possible.
Tallulah wants to drag this assignment out. She does so with fantastic, no holds barred, overbearing control that Danny is largely incapable of fighting.
Lott’s Tallulah is on a mission. Herself, her image, her all-consuming power over everything and everyone around her. Lott’s creation of character is extraordinary in its sheer fierceness and superb, delicately balanced delivery of zinging lines ensuring dramatic power in them is equal to comedic effect.
Goers’ sound studio set is intrinsic to facilitating the physical dynamic between the characters. These characters, though extreme opposites, nonetheless have and express the need to own the space around them which is absolutely crucial to work’s success.
The sparring between the two pushes Danny into defensive mode as Tallulah starts poking around Danny’s personality, as she perceives it. Danny isn’t afraid to snap back.
Asimos’s Danny is a tightly strung coil of barbed wire. He holds himself in tighter and tighter as Tallulah keeps getting closer and closer to his protected inner self. The intense emotional rawness of this struggle is superbly developed over two acts. The first act only scrapes the surface of the larger-than-life star and 9 to 5 straight-laced film editor, the second act goes much deeper and reveals the unexpected.
Robert Cusenza’s off stage role, Steve, is a terrific piece of comic business. Cusenza creates a deep sense of character and personality to Steve that feels like that of a surprised voyeur.
The second act is easily the most challenging of the work; breaking down these two strong personalities to their actual reality. It is done with such fine control. Pauses in the right place and perfect placement on stage. Never once does the pace falter, a line fall the wrong way, or a moment of doubt creep in. It is spell binding and kicks in with one gently delivered line from Tallulah.
Rare are opportunities to see Martha Lott on stage. More wonderful is the return of Chris Asimos after injury. Perfectly paired they are for the challenge of this work.
Here is that much sought after thing, the perfect production.
When: 2 to 20 May
Where: Holden Street Theatres