Members say: Funny, Great acting, Great staging, Entertaining, Great writing

About the show

The Atlantic Theater Company presents this world premiere from award-winning writer Kenneth Lonergan, about a country-western singer who tries to find his way by returning home.

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When his mother dies, country star Strings McCrane begins to question his life and its purpose. He returns home to Tennessee, leaving fame and fortune behind, but his escape does not go as planned. Atlantic Theater Company artistic director Neil Pepe directs this new work by Kenneth Lonergan, Pulitzer-prize finalist and writer of last season's hit revival of 'This Is Our Youth' on Broadway.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"You might expect Mr. Lonergan to have a natural affinity for obsessive, self-sabotaging people. And so it proves with 'Darling,' a poignant comic study of the bad faith and bad behavior of a narcissistic celebrity and those around him...all given vibrant life by the director, Neil Pepe, and a cast that finds the individual quirkiness in everyday stereotypes...Although this production could still be trimmed by 10 or 15 minutes, the strength of 'Darling' is in its loquacity." Full Review


"This laugh-out-loud comedy about a narcissistic country singer is undeniably hilarious at points. It also has a tendency to drag, with the plot often wandering away with our patience...The laughs start to sputter as the second act circles the runway...This is despite the best efforts of director Neil Pepe, who has a talent for comic timing. While it doesn't completely compensate for a script in need of trimming, great performances and first-rate design help smooth the journey." Full Review


"Can satire retain its bite when played as naturalism? 'Darling' comes off as an attempt to find out. But the story of a country music superstar ditching fame to search for a meaning in life seems to be searching for a meaning to be on the stage for nearly three hours...It's a simple story that's drawn out at a lethargic pace, with rarely a clue of the talent or charisma Strings must have that allows people to put up with his narcissistic nonsense. 'Darling' offers little to hold on to." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Very little of 'Hold On to Me Darling' is funny, though, and not just because these subjects are so well picked over; the tone is too wobbly, and the pace too languorous, for its teeth to gain any purchase on skin...Olyphant has the requisite charm and muscles but spends most of the play leadfooting the accelerator, trying to make it go. Despite this, and the valiant work of the rest of the cast, it doesn’t. I can’t think that’s because the play needed more thought; probably it needed less." Full Review


"If he wasn’t played with such honeyed charm and awe-shucks sincerity by Timothy Olyphant, this show, clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, would be one long, achy-breaky night. But Olyphant’s return to the stage is a stunner, striking just the right notes of guilelessness, obliviousness and narcissism...The play is entertaining and engaging, performed by a top-rate ensemble and directed with finesse by Neil Pepe, but its long reach for political and social resonance is a stretch." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'Hold on to Me Darling' is almost defiantly overwritten and leisurely in its handling of character and plot...But even when Lonergan’s not sure of the way, he’s so damn fun to follow. His dialogue is sharp and funny, and his characters slip easy judgment...Neil Pepe’s perfectly balanced production on a revolving set by Walt Spangler makes virtues of the script’s woolier byways, and he gets rich, firmly grounded work from the ensemble. Strung out though you may feel, you won’t want to let go." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"So enjoyable is everyone, and so tasty their dialogue, that it is well into the second act before you realize that Strings hasn't been at all affected by the play's events and Lonergan has no apparent plan for ending the play...Scene by scene, 'Hold On To Me Darling' entertains; in its total effect, it disappoints...If he has once again found his gifts for character and dialogue, his sense of structure is still missing in action. Still, it's good to be excited about Kenneth Lonergan again." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"It’s a fine premise, but Lonergan and the director, Neil Pepe, are not quite sure what to do with it...Too many scenes seem to do the same narrative work and the abrupt ending, another tonal swerve, seems as yet unfinished. But Lonergan’s dialogue is as effervescent as ever and his wry, sympathetic sense of the ways in which we lie to each other and to ourselves remains unmatched. If only he had a tighter hold on the play itself." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A v-e-r-y long two plus hours. The first act was literally painful to watch. Mr. Olyphant went through the motions in his portrayal of Strings with such effort that he appeared to be uncertain of his lines, his blocking or his intention. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the second act. One scene in particular revealed Lonergan’s writing to be much smarter than the first act indicated...Excellent performances were not quite enough to rescue this play." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Lonergan’s dialogue has never been more richly constantly makes unexpected shifts that hit your laughter buttons and cause you to explode. ‘Hold On to Me Darling’ has a serious theme, but I wouldn’t bother my head about it. I advise you to enter the Atlantic Theater with only one thing in mind: you’re about to watch nearly three hours of some really funny people saying really funny things in a really funny way. Hold on to this, darlin’, and you’ll have a damn good time." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"There's a much better play nestling in the almost three hours of 'Hold On to Me Darling', but Lonergan seems unwilling to find it, leaving most of the poignancy buried between his disjointed scenes...The chief compensation in this premiere is very funny dialogue performed by a fine cast. Neil Pepe's direction brings a light touch to the material that maximizes the laughs, but it also confines this portrait of a crossover country superstar's existential crisis to shallow depths." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"Exceedingly well directed by Neil Pepe, in which Lonergan blends satire with strong, straightforward emotion to complex and poignant effect...Mr. Lonergan knows what he’s doing, and by evening’s end he has successfully negotiated the tricky transition from raucous comedy to total sincerity...Lonergan’s ear for dialogue is, as always, eerily true, and so is his knack for leavening dead-serious moments with touches of dry comedy...Beautifully performed." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The only real stumbles you'll find, in fact, come from Lonergan. The shape and scope of 'Hold On to Me Darling' could not be better, but it does tend to wander into 'too much of a good thing' territory...Were it lighter and more streamlined, the play might not come as close as it does to running out of steam at the very end, just everything needs to be strongest...Lonergan hasn't quite found the ideal rhythm for every beat yet. But he's close." Full Review

New York Daily News

"His new Off-Broadway comedy-drama 'Hold On to Me Darling' about a rudderless celebrity is flecked with laughs and some terrific acting but the nearly 3-hour play suffers from aimlessness of its own...Also nagging is Olyphant’s lead performance. He’s an actor with impressive credits but radiates such little star power as Strings. Between his acting, the script and direction by Neil Pepe, this singer is one-note and the play loses sharp focus...Wish Lonergan’s new play gave us more to hold onto." Full Review


"Remember the scene in Robert Altman’s 'Nashville' when Keith Carradine sings 'I’m Easy' and the camera cuts to the faces of every woman in the audience certain he’s singing it to her? That’s Strings...Pepe has staged the longish evening with an ear for the nuance of Lonergan’s speeches that keeps the whole thing from collapsing. It’s all very funny, but Altman accomplished much the same impact in that single, memorable sweep of another unwitting Nashville fan base." Full Review


"Lonergan's laugh filled world premiere about a hilariously needy serial womanizer is self-indulgently long. However, Strings' attempt to finally live his life according to his mama's wishes is easy to take thanks to the cast...Neil Pepe makes full use of the superb cast and design team...'Hold On to Me Darling' returns Lonergan closer to the top of his game with fully rounded characters and a script with serious issues edging their way through all the laughs." Full Review


“In the hands of someone other than Timothy Olyphant, Strings McCrane might be a self-pitying monster too extreme to take seriously. However, this brilliantly accomplished actor has just the right amount of blarney to make Kenneth Lonergan’s ‘Hold On to Me Darling’ one of the most satisfying plays in town. And you will learn a good deal about the lives of the rich and famous and how they get away with the antics they commit.” Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"It’s good to see Kenneth Lonergan get his playwriting chops back in this new comedy...The satire is broad and the dialogue, frequently hilarious...The actors are uniformly excellent. The play could benefit from some trimming as it’s a bit too slight for its length. The second act loses steam and the final scene does not seem to fit very well...Neil Pepe’s fluid direction keeps everything moving smoothly. It’s a little too much of a good thing, but I’m not complaining." Full Review

The Wrap

"Kenneth Lonergan has written a terrific new comedy...'Hold on to Me Darling' is great, fun theater because 1) Lonergan has real talent, and 2) he takes that extra hour-plus to develop not only a truly inspired principal character but surrounds him with five other characters, each of whom exudes enough backstory to spawn five other plays...'Hold on to Me Darling' doesn’t ramble so much as it takes its time, and director Neil Pepe keeps all the comic moments percolating." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Kenneth Lonergan’s often uproarious comedy…Admittedly, Strings is as self-indulgent as Lonergan’s overlong, shaggy-dog story…But Olyphant’s sheer magnetism practically draws you to him, and the knowledge that Lonergan might unleash a priceless comic line at any moment is likely to keep you glued to your seats…What we have here is comedy-as-character study. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, but Olyphant has the sure footing that allows him to never take a misstep." Full Review

The Associated Press

"A smart, light-hearted production...Lonergan's gift with deceptively simple dialogue allows the characters to unintentionally reveal their flaws...The play is too long, partly due to Neil Pepe's lingering direction. Strings' poor decision-making and 'moral dilemmas' take time to come home to roost, and watching a spoiled, rich celebrity mess up his life for over 2 1/2 hours can become slightly tiresome, no matter how comical the dialogue or how likable the lucky ingrate may be." Full Review


"Sprawling, marvelous Lonergan play about celebrity...This should be a cartoon...Yet Kenneth Lonergan’s major new play keeps pulling us back from the edge of smugness. He makes his characters say something so wise, so funny or so heartbreaking that they leap from rural comic strips into individuals fascinating and fully formed...Olyphant is irresistible...This is all directed with gentle mercilessness by Neil Pepe. And the cast is spectacular." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Some of the smartest, most perceptive and amusing dialogue of the current theater season can be found in 'Hold on to Me Darling.' What’s more, the entire cast can be lauded for terrific acting that entertainingly and flawlessly illuminates the characters...The dialogue that the author has provided Strings is masterly...On the heels of all of the comedy that abounds in Lonergan’s writing, the situations he creates and the acting by the excellent cast, the play delivers one poignant sequence." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"The actors who bring these folks to life are so all-around terrific…Timothy Olyphant is pitch perfect as Strings, radiating sensual charisma one minute, pouting like a five-year old the next…This all makes for great fun, even though there are all kinds of holes in Lonergan's plot...The play is far too long...I began to wonder how Lonergan was going to wrap it all up. The answer proves to be through an abrupt tonal shift and a literal manifestation of the title that didn't quite work for me." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"'Hold Onto Me Darling' is a fun time, and—despite a very long running time and oddly miscast leading actor—is worth a look...It arrives at its main singular idea too quickly—the death of Strings' mother pulls the country-western star into an existential crisis...Lonergan never pushes past this initially amusing concept and, at times, without a lead actor with necessary comedic chops and nuance, the dialogue and jokes feel repetitive. Nonetheless, Lonergan is kind of a one-liner genius." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you're a fan of Lonergan's writing and Oliphant's acting (not to mention his half-naked body on a massage table for a long first scene!)

Don't see it if hillbilly accents get on your nerves.

Funny, Clever, Uneven, Rollercoaster

See it if You can tolerate an uneven play to get the good bits

Don't see it if You get put off by unlikeable characters

Also A comedy about modern celebrity. Strings McCrane (Olyphant) is a widel... Read more Read less

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you enjoy plays that make you look at your darker side, question your motives but in an entertaining often funny way. The set was excellent!

Don't see it if You're looking for a quick easy night without having to think.

Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if You understand Kenneth Lonergan and what he does with his plays

Don't see it if You don't like slapstick comedy that quickly turns tragic.

Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You like Lonergan's other plays (Lobby Hero, This is Our Youth) or if you like stories that feature characters that are larger than life.

Don't see it if The synopsis sounds unappealing or if you don't find inflated egos fodder for sophisticated comedy and drama.

Great acting, Hilarious, Great staging

See it if Gorgeous and eclectic set design (very impressive). Excellent supporting cast. So many trenchant and hilarious one-liners!

Don't see it if You're not into shows with a self-absorbed celebrity protagonist. You don't like plays to be significantly longer than 2 hours,

Original, Intelligent, Refreshing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You want to laugh a lot watching a clueless if handsome narcissist finally learn that it isn't all about him.

Don't see it if Seeing the humor down deep in the foibles of people unaware of their foolishness does not interest nor amuse you.

Phenomenal set, too long

See it if you're a Lonergan fan, and even just for the incredible set design; some performances are also excellent.

Don't see it if you do not want to sit for three hours and wonder at the end what it all adds up to.

Funny, Confusing, Well acted

See it if you somehow figure a way of skipping out before the last scene and are good with a well acted, somewhat humorous play that skims the surface

Don't see it if you don't want to be disappointed by Lonergan who is a talented playwright but needed someone to sit him down and say "rewrite!"

Funny, Thought-provoking, Slow, Entertaining, Long

See it if you like Lonergan's other works or colloquial plays in general

Don't see it if you're fond of elegant prose or you have a short attention span. The show stretches almost 3 hours

Funny, Great writing, Flawed, Great turntable set

See it if You value genuinely witty dialogue over plot and don't mind seeing characters you won't exactly love. Plus Timothy Olyphant half naked.

Don't see it if You want a zippy little story because this is almost 3 hours and definitely feels like it.

Funny, Original, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if you like Lonergan's writing - this is one of his best. An often appallingly funny dissection of self absorbed celebrity and its acolytes.

Don't see it if You're southern & squirm when New Yorkers satirize some of your quirks & ways of expression Underneath the mockery are some universal truths

Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining, Too long, Great staging

See it if you want to hear brilliant dialogue from terrific actors

Don't see it if you get annoyed by playwrights who don't want to end a scene. Each scene was wonderful, but almost all were 3-5 minutes too long. EDIT!!!

Cliched, Slow, Entertaining, Great staging, Self-indulgent

See it if Charming cute story, Great staging. Entertaining. All other characters but the "hero" are realistic and well acted.

Don't see it if Main character seems to have been written by a different author than all other characters. The inexplicably pedantic melodramatic hillbilly.

Original, Quirky, Well acted, Entertaining, Slow at times

See it if you like Lonergan plays. Charmingly funny. You'll get the main character's posturing when, for me, the emotional impact hits at the end.

Don't see it if your only reason is to see Timothy Olyphant. His character could get a little tiresome.

Funny, Original, Great acting, Quirky, Great staging

See it if You like Timothy Olyphant a whole lot and you're charmed by soft Southern accents. You want to see a combo of Justified and the Grinder.

Don't see it if You get easily bored or distracted -- it's long. Don't see it if the antics of a sad rich person are going to annoy you.

Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You enjoy Kenneth Lonergan's previous works & want to see well-written character studies on stage. Also if you enjoy great ensemble acting.

Don't see it if You prefer short, plot-driven plays.

Quirky, Slow, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You like clever dialogue and sets.

Don't see it if you like your shows edited and tight. The show runs a little long and needs some trimming. It also doesn't break any new ground.

Hilarious, Great staging, Poignant and unexpected ending, Excruciating at times

See it if you are interested in ideas about family dysfunction, fame and Oedipal ideas; good acting,set design and direction.

Don't see it if you have mommy issues, are embarrassed by anything off color or country western related.

Delightful, Great acting, Must see, Great writing, Hilarious

See it if you love great dialogue. Kenneth Lonergan's script is masterful.

Don't see it if you only like musicals.

Funny, Clever, Great writing

See it if you are a fan of Lonergan's other work and/or if you like, sometimes, over-the-top comedy.

Don't see it if If you can't find humor in a country-western :"star" who also is a much-sought-after movie idol.

Great acting, Indulgent, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if you're a Lonergan fan. I didn't like it as much as others have. It could have used some editing, IMO.

Don't see it if don't like slow moving plays.

Funny, Great acting, Quirky, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you like lovable, narcissistic characters or shows about celebrities.

Don't see it if you prefer a short show. This one runs nearly 3 hours!

Funny, Indulgent, Slow, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if u want a show about a character unable to change his stripes despite frequent, adamant proclamations about his great desire to do so. Talky.

Don't see it if you have a low threshold for narcissistic protagonists, albeit here hilariously clueless and ineffectual in attempts at redressing that fact

Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Indulgent, Slow

See it if you enjoy a good laugh.

Don't see it if prefer fast-paced action.

Cast & Creatives (13)