Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hold On to Me Darling ***

It’s good to see Kenneth Lonergan get his playwriting chops back in this new comedy at Atlantic Theater Company, his best work for the stage since Lobby Hero in 2001. Timothy Olyphant (“Damages” and “Justified” on TV) plays Strings McCrane, a 39-year-old comically self-absorbed country western singer and movie star who reexamines his life upon the death of his mother. When he heads back home to rural Tennessee for the funeral, he decides to cast off the trappings of celebrity and try the simple life. It may not turn out well for him, but it certainly pays off for the audience. The satire is broad and the dialogue, frequently hilarious. Jenn Lyon from “The Wayside Motor Inn” plays Nancy, the seemingly good-hearted masseuse he meets at his hotel. Adelaide Clemens is Essie, the second cousin twice removed that he encounters at the funeral. C.J. Wilson is Duke, his big brother, with whom he has a volatile relationship. The rarely unemployed Keith Nobbs (“The Legend of Georgia McBride”) plays Jimmy, his overly devoted, long-suffering personal assistant. Jonathan Hogan is Mitch, a figure from the distant past who suddenly reappears. 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. Walt Spangler (“Between Riverside and Crazy”) once again comes up with a terrific revolving set that includes seven distinct locations. The costumes by Suttriat Anne Larlarb help greatly in creating the characters. Neil Pepe’s fluid direction keeps everything moving smoothly. It’s a little too much of a good thing, but I’m not complaining. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes including intermission.

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