BWW Review: HOLD ON TO ME DARLING, A Country Music Superstar Tries Ditching Fame
Can satire retain its bite when played as naturalism? As directed by Neil Pepe, Kenneth Lonergan's HOLD ON TO ME 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.
Timothy Olyphant plays Strings McCrane, "the third biggest crossover star in the history of country music." As the play begins, the distraught Strings has taken time off from filming his latest Hollywood action blockbuster for his mother's funeral. His loyal assistant (Keith Nobbs), after watching his boss smash a guitar in his hotel room, rings up for a massage therapist.
The masseuse who arrives is Nancy (Jenn Lyon); unhappily married, star-struck and seduced by Strings' muscles. Soon he's the one with his hands on her. Their relationship evolves at a somewhat faster pace than the singer's new relationship with a not especially distant cousin, Essie (Adelaide Clemens).
Strings' search for a new meaning in life takes him back to his rural hometown, where, with help of his big brother Duke (C.J. Wilson, an amusing good ol' boy), he tries to achieve normalcy by buying and running a rural feed store, creating havoc among the people who profit from his stardom. More complications arise late in the game from surprise visit from a character played by Jonathan Hogan.
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. HOLD ON TO ME DARLING offers little to hold on to.