note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
"Tallulah" begins not with a flourish but a flush......just to let us know this is the irreverent Miss Bankhead! (Is there any other kind?) Not one, but two other Tallulah shows are up and running: "Tallulahtivity" being one and "Tallulah Halleluja" being the other. Maybe there is another Tallulah.
After the flush Kathleen Turner enters and executes a slow walk around the apron of the stage surveying her kingdom. Tallulah wants to see us; after all, she'll be spending the next hour and a half with us. She calls us "Darlings" and she'll be relying on us for support. (That's the conceit of Sandra Ryan Howard's one woman show. We're Tallulah's confidantes.) She'll be seducing us, she says and confiding that it isn't easy "to be a piece of work".
The Colonial production didn't make it easy for Turner on press night. Gremlins caused the amplification system to screech and then give out ----which might have unnerved a lesser actress. Turner took it in stride and ad-libbed her way out of a non-playing victrola. "Well, I'll play it for you later," she quipped. The audience ate it up. She even managed to project her voice all the way to the balcony without the microphones.
The script has her rail against Brando and complain that the part of weak-willed Blanche just wasn't right for her...which is why she turned Tennessee down when he asked her to play it. (It's not in the script but she did play Blanche later on in her own career, to disastrous reviews.)
Heyward's play is a comfortable sedan but to do justice to the legend that is Tallulah, the vehicle has to be a Rolls. Turner proves every bit the legend Tallulah is, filling the enormous Colonial stage all by herself. Watching her sashay in Bob Mackie's gorgeous dressing gown (split to the navel both ways!) flitting about Derek McLane's velvet and silk suite of a set...lit by Peter Kaczorowski's toast rose and gold sunset (which turns royal blue at three in the orning) you, too, believe it's "all cakes and ale".