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. More…
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.
“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
"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
"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
"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
"Lonergan’s dialogue has never been more richly humorous...it 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
"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
"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
"While there's plenty of humor along the way, Lonnergan and director Pepe mine the emotional turmoil, building to an ending that is not only sincere and sensitive but one that feels earned. Along the way, I appreciated the great writing...And I loved Olyphant...He gives an engaged and engaging performance in this great, original American play." Full Review
"With Timothy Olyphant anchoring a pitch-perfect cast, and with Lonergan’s absolutely uproarious script, it’s the farthest thing from tragedy...Olyphant exudes palpable charisma...Act I carries the audience on such a grand wave of laughter that the momentum slips a little during a slightly too long Act II—and the ending feels a bit anticlimactic. But the only real downside of this utterly delightful show is that C.J. Wilson’s Duke doesn’t have enough stage time." 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
"'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
"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
"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
"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
"It is a biting satire of self-centered celebrities and the culture that allows them to flourish...The actors all do a fine job. Olyphant in particular comes off as the sort of fellow you really want to root for...Softened with humor as it may be, the play pulls no punches at the end when it shows who holds the ultimate responsibility for the life a person has led, and the life they someday hope to lead. It’s a compelling tale satisfactorily told." Full Review
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Playwright Kenneth Lonergan is verbose. Scenes are long, wordy, and themes are repeated over and over...I believe his talents are best suited to film - a place where character development and story can be told at greater length in different scenes...Overall an entertaining and poignant evening in the theatre. A fine cast. A great playwright. Just a little too heavy on the dialogue and exposition." Full Review
"'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
"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
"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
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.
See it if you appreciate terrific acting. The cast down the line is superb.
Don't see it if have no tolerance for shows longer than 90 minutes. It runs 2:45 and I would cut -maybe - five minutes.
See it if You are a fan of good writing and engrossing, character-based stories. See it if you're a fan of Timothy Olyphant!
Don't see it if You need neat endings to your stories. Don't see it if you don't care for anti-heroes.
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.
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.
See it if You enjoy great acting. The play seems over written, but I could have watched it for another hour. Brilliant characters finely wrought.
Don't see it if You are impatient with wandering plots.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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!!!
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