A pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago––

A pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago––

By Theatre review

By Edith McCauley

Theater Critic

Kathleen Turner stars in Tallulah at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago.

Touring before its Broadway opening, it runs for only two weeks. Biographical dramas by single performers recreate the lives of the rich and famous. Tru is based on the life of Truman Capote; Marlene, the reminescence of an aging actress; Barrymore the collapse of Lionel. We also have the philosophy of Mark Twain, and now Tallulah.

The husky-voiced actress, whose exploits and outrageous behavior gave her unsurprassed notoriety long before the onslaught of modern media, began her career at 16. The Bankheads of Alabama were a political family serving in the Senate and House. Her mother’s death, attributed to a complication of Tallulah’s birth, caused a rift in the father-daughter relationship. New York provided an escape, and she quickly became the darling of party-goers, writers and high society.

Sandra Ryan Heyward writes a one-woman show that requires Turner to keep the audience focused for nearly two hours. Using a witty, rapid-fire narrative, Tallulah speaks to phone callers, directly to the audience, and in a deep melancholy, remembers better times. Her relationships with Marlon Brando and Tennessee Williams interweave the plot. We see the results of drug and alcohol addiction.

Engaging the audience, Turner delivers Tallulah’s one-liners with aplomb.

“Hello, daaaahling.”

“I’m pure as the driven slush.”

“I want to try everything once.”

Accomplishing the playwright’s goal of revealing all the strengths and weaknesses of a woman whose self-interest played havoc with her career, Turner keeps the audience laughing and sympathizing with her portrayal. Bob Mackie’s gowns are divine. A designer’s eye enables him to bring out the best in every woman. Derek McLane’s set, a fantasy of lavender chiffon and Art Deco furniture provides an environment of decadent luxury.

Shows heading for Broadway meet with mixed reviews. Moon for the Misbegotten garnered Tonys, while Aida was not viewed kindly. (It continues to play to full houses.) Barrymore and Victor/Victoria previewed in Chicago and, in spite of mediocre reviews, went on to successful runs. It will be interesting to see how Tallulah fares.

The run continues through November 26, and tickets can be obtained by calling Chicago Ticketline at (312) 902-1400.

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