Valerie Harper at Tallulah Bankhead was simply amazing and mesmerizing.
Essentially a two-character play between Bankhead and an editor for whom she's come into the sound studio to loop some dialogue for her second to last movie, the play, a comedy, explores Bankhead's notorious reputation as a foul-mouthed, pill-popping, drunk who tells it like it is (at least the way she sees it, which is surprisingly clear given her constant cloud of drugs and drink).
The play itself is extremely well written. The jokes, pithy and bawdy one-liners are tossed out liberally and with perfect aim by Harper. But there's also drama that brings the characters together, keeping them interested in each other and interesting to the audience. Matthew Lombardo has constructed a very fascinating piece of work who's drama sneaks up on the audience, but isn't out of place even in the rapid-fire of one-liners. The drama is organic born out of the comedy.
As for Harper, her performance, or more aptly, her inhabitation of Tallulah Bankhead is absolutely mesmerizing. Most often you even forget there is anyone else on stage with her. That's not a slight toward her co-star, Brian Hutchinson, but a testament to how completely she shines as Bankhead. She is the driving force of the play and never lets the audience forget it. Given the larger-than-life presentation that was Bankhead, this performance could have been straight parody or characiture but Harper keeps her Bankhead grounded in nuance and self-awareness of Bankhead playing Bankhead. It's a fascinating performance and one that I am thrilled to have seen live.