“Looped” playwright claims that touring production suffered because of alleged concealment of illness
Valerie Harper is being sued for $2 million for allegedly hiding her cancer diagnosis, leading to financial chaos for the touring production of the play “Looped,” according to legal documents obtained by TheWrap.
In a countersuit responding to a lawsuit filed by Harper and her husband, Anthony Cacciotti, “Looped” playwright Matthew Lombardo and Looped on Tour, LLC — among others — allege that Harper and Cacciotti “knowingly withheld the truth about” Harper's cancer when she signed on to perform in the national production of “Looped,” leading to “major financial losses.”
According to the countersuit, Lombardo had approached actress Tovah Feldshuh about portraying the role of Tallulah Bankhead for the touring show, but eventually agreed to cast Harper — who had played the part in previous productions of the play — instead.
The countersuit claims that things took a turn for the worse in early 2012, when Harper had to drop out of the production on the fourth day of rehearsals due to the return of her cancer.
“Harper could not remember her lines although she had performed the show numerous times before and was slurring her speech in rehearsal,” the lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, reads. “After the fourth day of showing such symptoms, director Rob Ruggiero suggested that she go to the hospital where it was later revealed that her previously diagnosed lung cancer had spread to her brain.”
Harper has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.
The countersuit goes on to claim that Harper has said in numerous interviews that she was aware of her symptoms as early as October 2012, months before rehearsals for the play began.
By the time Harper had to leave the production, the countersuit claims, Feldshuh was no longer available for the play. Stefanie Powers (“Hart to Hart”) was tapped for the role, but the show suffered poor ticket sales.
Lombardo and the play's production are seeking damages of “not less than $500,000,” plus punitive damages “estimated to be no less than $1,500,000.”
TMZ reports that former “Rhoda” star Harper initially sued Lombardo, et al., claiming that Lombardo didn't pay her the remainder of her contract. They have denied the claims.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.