×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: Timothy Olyphant in Kenneth Lonergan’s ‘Hold on to Me Darling’

With:
Timothy Olyphant, Adelaide Clemens, Jenn Lyon, Keith Nobbs, Jonathan Hogan, C.J. Wilson.

Country music superstar Strings McCrane is trying to get real — but in Kenneth Lonergan’s funny, beguiling but overwritten new play “Hold on to Me Darling,” reality isn’t one of the singer’s strong points. Self-absorption is, and 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 and premiering at the Atlantic Theater Company, would be one long, achy-breaky night. But Olyphant’s return to the stage since clicking in TV-land (“Justified,” “Deadwood”) is a stunner, striking just the right notes of guilelessness, obliviousness and narcissism to make Strings one of the most appealing messes in a long time.

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, with Strings and those around him equating or manipulating his celebrity life and personal angst to a larger moral drift of the country.

Leaving the sci-fi epic he was filming to return to his hometown for the funeral of his momma, Strings realizes he’s been looking at life through the smoked glass of his limousine and living in a world without true feelings. And though those celebrity push-up-brassiere parties were fun, he’s decided to make some changes — even if he doesn’t know what they are just yet.

He announces this change-of-life resolve to his enabling personal assistant, the wide-eyed and worshipful Jimmy (Keith Nobbs, with terrific comic timing) who is always at the ready, “right on the corner of Beck and Call.” But even Jimmy is at first dubious of Strings’ intent.

The impulsive and easily distraught Strings at first finds some comfort with Nancy (Jenn Lyon), a hotel masseuse whom he thinks is more genuine than the supermodels he dates, little realizing that social climbing knows no class. Lyon is transformative, from shy fan to cunning girlfriend to fierce wife defending her turf, her interests and her life.

A less-than-distant cousin Essie (Adelaide Clemens, as authentic as salt) gives Strings some down-home advice: “There’s more important things in this world than your happiness. Maybe if you ever realized that you’d be a little happier.” But that wisdom still alludes him, as does as any sensitivity to the the feelings of others.

Strings’ older brother Duke (C.J. Wilson, effortlessly excellent with a delivery that’s as dry as jerky) also tries to steer him straight, but Duke, too, gets swept up Strings’ romanticized notion to own, run and clerk at a feed and grain store in the Tennessee burg. This is where the play veers into sitcom-silly and loses its sharpness, as quirky bromides, flashes of dark humor and delicious turns of phrases prove less and less effective.

But a late scene reuniting Strings with his long-absent father Mitch (touchingly played by Jonathan Hogan) brings a simple reality to Strings, even though its naturalistic tone is a bit jarring. Still, as beautifully played by both actors — and it’s a long time a’coming, darlings — suddenly Strings and the play find themselves.

Off Broadway Review: Timothy Olyphant in Kenneth Lonergan's 'Hold on to Me Darling'

Atlantic Theater Company; 199 seats, $66.50 top. Opened March 14, 2016; Reviewed March 12. Running time: 2 HOURS, 45 MIN.

Production: A presentation by the Atlantic Theater Company of a play in two acts by Kenneth Lonergan.

Creative: Directed by Neil Pepe. Sets, Walt Spangler; costumes, Suttirat Anne Larlarb; lighting, Brian MacDevitt; sound, David Van Tieghem; production stage manager, Jennifer Wheeler Kahn; production manager, Michael Wade.

Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Adelaide Clemens, Jenn Lyon, Keith Nobbs, Jonathan Hogan, C.J. Wilson.

More Legit

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content