Looped stars Stefanie Powers (who, coincidentally, starred alongside Bankhead in the original film) as Tallulah and Brian Hutchinson as Danny Miller, an uptight, secretive sound editor who goes to battle with the impossible star, feebly attempting to coerce her to properly deliver a fourteen-word line of dialogue, with disastrous, yet hysterical results.
Hutchinson recently spoke to Gay Life to give some behind-the-scenes insight into the play, co-starring with Powers, and deconstructing the legend behind the legend.
What can Baltimore audiences expect from Looped?
Looped is a blast. It’s raucous, bawdy, bold, upbeat, and funny comedy. If you come with a group of friends, you can come and expect to laugh and have a really good time.
The play has some more deeper, heartfelt moments as well, but when the audience is on board, we are of surfing on the laughter, so it’s really a lot of fun.
You originated the role of Danny Miller when Looped was on Broadway. How did you originally get involved with the play?
I first met the director Rob Ruggiero from a show we had done a few years back, and he had mentioned the part to me. [Before it was on Broadway in 2010,] they did it with Valerie Harper in Pasadena and West Palm Beach. I knew the history of the play a little bit, and I knew that they were looking potentially for another guy to play this role [in a touring stop in D.C., and later on Broadway], and he had me meet with Valerie. I went to her hotel and it was the day that I had shaved my head for another play I was doing, Exit the King, on Broadway. So I met her and she was amazing, but I had to take my headshot with me to just assure her that I could technically grow hair. We had a nice chat and I think she remembered that.
I couldn’t do the production in D.C., because Exit the King coincided, but when they did it on Broadway several months later, I auditioned twice and read with her and then they offered me the part, in the room, which was nice.
What is it about the character that keeps you coming back to the role?
I came back to it because they asked and, at the time Valerie was still doing it too. I thought it might be fun to do the play again for a few weeks to a new broader audience outside of New York, because I really think it could have a life outside of the city. We had such a good time together, a good rapport on stage, and she wanted me to do it, so I was thrilled to work with her again. But things changed after about a week into rehearsal where she wouldn’t be able to continue because of medical issues.
Everything went on hold and a few weeks went by and the [producers] said that in fact, Valerie would not be continuing. We spoke on the phone and she gave her blessing that the production would continue, which was lovely, as she can only be.
So they found Stefanie and everything happened rather quick. Once she said yes, it was like a whirlwind because she got the script, we rehearsed for one week, and then came to Florida [for the first tour stop]. She’s just done incredible work getting this all together. I have to say she is really inspiring because her Tallulah in some ways is very different than Valerie’s and she worked really hard in such a short time to learn the play. Everybody’s really grateful that she was so prepared to dive in and take this on. We just had our first audience [Feb. 26] and she nailed it. It’s really inspiring.
I love that she has a connection with the film that the play is centered around, costarring with Tallulah.
Yeah that helped. Since she did know Tallulah and has very specific ideas about who she was, so it was a great collaborative process. But as little time as we had, everyone was open to saying yes, as you have to be in a good collaboration. Certain parts of the play takes care of itself—she has to loop a line of dialogue, she has to sit there and do it, but other parts of the play, in terms of staging, have really been more organically created because of what Stephanie was bringing to it and what she wanted, so its been kind of fun to crack the play open again.
There is battle of the wills between Danny, who is described as secretive, uptight, and conservative—and Ms. Bankhead. Without giving too much away—do we get a clear winner at the end?
Well, it is a sparring match throughout the play and from the beginning, when she walks in the room, Danny is this straight man to all of Tallulah’s jokes, so I lob the ball up in the air and she spikes them down, pretty much in my face. So Tallulah wins, hands down, most of the time. But as the play progresses and we learn more about Danny and she gets him to reveal some information, they learn more about each other, and by virtue of that they come to an understanding of sorts.
In the end, it’s not necessarily about winning, it’s kind of getting to know each other and being authentic and your true self for a moment with a stranger you didn’t know before. So there are a few secrets and a few reveals in the play in terms of his character and his development as a human being, and there’s stuff that she helps him along with in ways that are unexpected and that he wouldn’t have predicted in the beginning.
Tallulah was famous for her razor sharp one liners. Is there a scene, exchange, or line in Looped that is your favorite?
The play is chock-full of hilarious one liners. [Playwright] Matthew Lombardo is brilliant at writing zingers that are really funny, and there are moments of the play that just swell with laughter.
At one point, after I’ve been provoking her, or she thinks I’m provoking her—I’m actually trying to help her get the line down on tape—she says, “You know, there are two types of men I’ve encountered in my life—those who want to fuck me and those who want to be me—in which category do you fall?”
She keeps trying to figure him out, and later on there’s a scene in which she wants a drink and I offer her scotch and she flips out and she says, “Scotch! If I was stranded on a desert island, I wouldn’t touch that shit. I once gave my dog a taste of scotch and he had to lick his ass to get the taste out of his mouth.”
In the second act, I move her purse and I bring it to her and she says, “I can’t believe you’ve touched my purse. Touching a woman’s purse is like touching her vagina. Of course I can only fit so much in my purse.”
There’s so much raw material there with Tallulah because she was renowned for her one liners and acid tongue.
Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of one thing after another. She has a lot of fun. I am the butt and brunt of her jokes and for the audiences sake, they’re laughing at her because she’s hilarious and laughing at this guy who is desperately trying to keep control of a situation that he clearly is losing. And she’s just owning him and torturing him with her humor.
A final message for those in Baltimore interested in seeing the performance?
I just think people will really dig it. I think whether you’re a fan of Tallulah or know who she was or not—she’s a fascinating character. Those things that fans may already know about her—the wit, the vulgarity, the sexuality, the humor—it’s all there, but the play is also a great tribute to her life and she’s treated with respect. There are a lot of interesting facts about her life you would have never known unless you see the play. Everybody really learns something about her when you come and see it.
Looped with Stefanie Powers
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