By Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Neil Pepe
Atlantic Theater Company
By Lauren Yarger
What's It All about?
You can't go home again. at least not when you are super crossover singing sensation Strings McCrane (Timothy Olyphant). Summoned back to his rural Tennessee roots by the death of his mother, Strings longs for a feeling of belonging and a simple life that doesn't involve millions of dollars, recording contracts and concert tours. He just wants to settle down, and since the pompous superstar feels the world revolves around his every whim, he decides he will do just that -- with practically the first person who enters his hotel room, massage therapist Nancy (an engaging Jenn Lyon). She is a big fan of Strings' music, so it's easy for her to abandon her faithful, but boring husband and twin kids to follow him to Beaumont, TN. Make it happen, he tells his hapless assistant Jimmy (Keith Nobbs), a devoted fan (and maybe torch carrying romantic hopeful) who has been seeing to Strings' every needs for more than a decade.
Once home, Strings reconnects with his mother's close friend, a distant cousin, Essie (a nuanced Adelaide Clemens), who also succumbs to Strings' charms, but Nancy, who has big plans for String's fortune, stakes her claim and she and the country singer get hitched. Strings announces his intentions of buying a local feed store. He recruits brother Mitch (a dryly humorous Jonathan Hogan), who doesn't seem happy to be constantly reminded of his brother's success in the face of his own financial hardship, to partner with him in the easy, simple life of running the store.
Strings' plans for serenity don't go as planned, however. His decision to walk out of a movie contract and a concert tour have left him facing lawsuits threatening to take away his multiple millions -- a turn of events that doesn't go well with Nancy. Essie isn't exactly waiting in the wings. And the paparazi outside the feed store are making it possible for the brothers to rack up any sales to pay for this place, much to Mitch's growing alarm. Will no one realize they are messing up this whiny, self-involved singer's life?
What Are the Highlights?
The play by Kenneth Lonergan (This is Our Youth, "Analyse This") was surprisingly interesting, uncluttered by cliche, and deeper than expected. Characters are well developed. Director Neil Pepe ( (Hands on a Hardbody, Speed-the-Plow) keeps Olyphant (whom you might know from TV's "Justified") defined. We need to not like him, but not hate him and balance is achieved. Lyon is fascinating as the wholesome innocent/manipulative fortune seeker and Clemens surprises as the seemingly dowdy forgotten cousin lacking self confidence blossoms into a beautiful, independent woman.
Walt Spangler's rotating set creates endless environs.
What Are the Lowlights?
None, I thoroughly enjoyed all two hours and 45 minutes of it.
Hold On To Me Darling has been extended through April 17 at Atlantic Theatre's Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday at 7 pm; Wednesday through Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm; Tickets are $66.50-$96.50: atlantictheater.org; 866-811-4111.
Costume Design by Suttirat Larlarb, Lighting Design by Brian MacDevitt, Sound Design by David Van Tieghem, Dialects by Stephen Gabis
-- God's name taken in vain