Friday, April 8, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: Hold On to Me Darling

Hold On to Me Darling
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.

More information:
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:; 866-811-4111.

Additional credits:
Costume Design by Suttirat Larlarb, Lighting Design by Brian MacDevitt, Sound Design by David Van Tieghem, Dialects by Stephen Gabis

-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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