Review By Kipp Lee
Looped tells the tale of old Hollywood and all its deceptive glamour. The other side of the silver screen doesn’t always shine so bright. Set in a recording studio one afternoon in 1965, Looped follows a washed up, drug-addled Tallulah Bankhead as she struggles to record one line of dialogue for Die! Die! My Darling! The last film she ever made.
Looped is a family affair, starring husband and wife duo Glenda and Greg Kenyon, who take to the stage for the 50th time together, and their son Jordan. This family is clearly a staple in the Rockdale community theatre scene and at The Guild Theatre, having appeared in many previous productions.
The play itself is a claustrophobic exercise in patience. Danny Miller (Jordan Keynon), the unfortunate editor who got stuck with the job of wrangling Glenda Kenyon’s Tallulah, is caught between a rock and a hard place. Butting heads with the inebriated actress, Jordan Kenyon holds his own on stage very well. Out of the cast of three, his accent felt the most natural and consistent. The character of Danny didn’t get much of a chance to develop in the first act with Tallulah bulldozing her way through every interaction, playing too heavily on the tropes of alcoholism and addiction. So his revelation and vulnerability shown towards the end of act 2 felt unearned, however well Kenyon played it.
Glenda Kenyon was larger than life in her role as the scandalous starlet. Every part of her character felt purposeful and planned, from each little to stumble to every slur and over-articulation of words. She was elegantly dressed in a way that transcended time – many things about the set, costume, music and script felt anachronistic, but it complimented Tallulah’s personal delusions. Kenyon controlled the stage and the audience, stomping around demanding their love and affection. Her comedic timing was brilliant and her chemistry with her fellow actors was obvious. It was a little weird to see a mother/son team playing characters so open about sex and sexuality – particularly Tallulah, who would flirt with a lamp post - but neither actor let anything betray them as anything more than co-workers. They were an exceedingly professional cast, not just for community theatre.
The final member of the cast, Greg Kenyon, plays Steve, an audio engineer who is offstage the entire show. Greg also is operating the sound and lights for the show, as well as being the set designer. There isn’t much to the role of Steve, but for a character who communicates entirely through a microphone from the bio box, he could work on his microphone technique.
The set is overwhelmingly brown and the scale of it felt off – probably due to the height of the theatre - but it felt like a huge room when it needed to feel small, inescapable to compliment the script. The lighting is basic and barely deserves a mention. There was a single lighting state for the majority of the play. Given that both acts were basically just one lone unbroken scene it worked but was exceedingly uninteresting for the audience and somewhat jarring when it did eventually change.
Director, Jennifer Gilchrist and the actors tried their best to make the play dynamic and exciting but were limited by the wordy script and stagnant setting. Act 2 is where it gets interesting but it’s a slog to get there, an hour of distractions and diversions. Tallulah certainly led an interesting and colourful life and I can see why someone would write a play about her but honestly I got more out of reading her Wikipedia page and it was quicker.
One aspect that was unexpected and pleasing was the representation of queer characters even after a few derogatory phrases were thrown about. Obviously the language used in the play is that of the 60s, but it is refreshing to see Tallulah played as the proud bisexual woman she was.
The Guild Theatre is a wonderful venue and obviously throws everything they have into every production. If you love old Hollywood and plays that are just dialogue, I would definitely recommend this play. The acting is good and the characters are interesting, which mostly makes up for the other short comings of Looped. Looped is on from February 14 – March 7 at the Guild Theatre Rockdale.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.