Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Hold On To Me Darling

In its latest installment, The Atlantic Theatre Company is presenting a modern day tale of celebrities, their decisions, the bubble they live in, the people who surround them, and those that take advantage of them.  In once sense a dark comedy, and in the end, a bit of a tragedy.   Hold On To Me Darling, seems to have all of this in more.  In just under 3 hours, if nothing else, it is certainly packed full with these themes plus a bit of country music and a whole bunch of southern accents.

Playwright Kenneth Lonergan is verbose.  Scenes are long, wordy, and themes are repeated over and over - to likely emphasize the point that celebrities in real life often make the same mistakes over and over.

Timothy Olyphant (Strings McCrane) aptly (and easy on the eyes) helms the cast of 6 as a hot country music star who's mother has just died and he is trying to come to grips with his past decisions and how he can go forward without her voice. Quite cleverly, you never see her or hear from her but she is undoubtedly the 7th character in this play. His ensemble cast includes the handsome and terrifically entertaining Keith Nobbs (Jimmy) as Strings McCrane's ambiguously gay and fiercely loyal personal assistant, Jenn Lyons as Nancy, the seemingly innocent yet stealth scheming girlfriend/wife, Adelaide Clemens as the shy, country bumpkin 2nd cousin who connects with Strings, C.J. Wilson as String's obtuse, simple-minded yet grounded hometown brother and Jonathan Hogan, as Mitch, String's estranged father, a character who only appears in the final scene of the play.

Did I mention that the play was long?  3 Hours long.  My theatre going friends and I all commented afterwards that the actors seemed to be having such a good time with their parts, that they often seemed to ad-lib certain jokes or extend certain jokes with additional comments - which of course led to additional laughter in addition to the general amusement of most of the other actors on the stage.

In addition to this seemingly harmless frivolity which probably added maybe 10 minutes to the play - you still have to deal with the other 2 hours 50 minutes.  I think Mr. Lonergan's long and successful career has been in both the theatre and film - but 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.  This is especially important when telling a story which requires memories from what has happened in the past - on a live stage, that becomes problematic and tilts toward more dialogue - your only option to convey the information to the audience.

Overall an entertaining and poignant evening in the theatre. A fine cast.  A great playwright.  A great rotating set (Walt Spangler) Just a little too heavy on the dialogue and exposition.