By Annette Hinkle
“You’re a reporter. Let me ask you a question,” said Darren Goldstein. “When you interview someone do you record it — and if you do, do you also take notes?”
Turning the tables by posing a question to the interviewer is admittedly an unorthodox way to start a conversation ostensibly about Mr. Goldstein — specifically his role in the world premiere of “The Forgotten World,” Jonathan Tolins play which opens next week at Bay Street Theater — but he had very good reason for asking it.
In the play, Mr. Goldstein plays Steve Powell, a Chicago reporter who comes to the dressing room of rising opera singer Margaret Meier (Ashlie Atkinson) to interview her for a puff piece on her singing career. There are no stage directions provided in the script about how he should approach the interviewing process, hence the quest for advice.
“My character deals mostly with Hollywood actors and actresses. When celebrities come to Chicago to appear on Oprah Winfrey, I do the interview,” explains Mr. Goldstein. “I’m not the first string opera critic they were expecting. I have no experience in opera, and they get very insulted about it. They’re kind of like, ‘They sent you?’”
However, Mr. Goldstein notes that the plot thickens when it becomes clear that Steve has an ulterior motive for wanting to do the story on Margaret — and it has to do with his prior history with the singer.
“We’ve had a previous relationship. I know her, but she doesn’t recognize me right away and she has her agent and her husband there,” Mr. Goldstein says. “The play is structured so well because it goes from light, comic and whimsical to kind of being gob smacked with an operatic tone.”
“It goes very big eventually, with big feelings and emotions,” he adds.
Those emotions are not only operatic in scope, but akin to the sort that people struggle with at a certain point in their lives when they begin questioning their place in the world, both personally and professionally. It’s certainly difficult for Margaret, given her sensitivity about her weight, which is a source of public scrutiny, her career and her family life. Though it would seem many of these issues hit women in the performing arts especially hard, Mr. Goldstein notes this play isn’t limited to just exploring female hardships in this realm.
“It’s about everyone in this world fighting to figure out how they fit into each other’s lives,” he explains. “In the world of opera, how much of it is about the art, how much is about her own ego?”
For his part, Mr. Goldstein notes that Steve is dealing with his own insecurities in the play and he seriously wonders whether reporting on the lives of celebrities is enough for his life’s legacy.
“There’s great confidence in doing the puff pieces and he knows exactly how to connect with men and women,” Mr. Goldstein says. “But on the flip side, when he’s going deeper he’s not sure of his footprint in the world. I don’t think he feels as secure as he seems.”
These are issues not only affecting opera singers and journalists. The concept of finding balance between personal and professional commitments offers interesting parallels to Mr. Goldstein’s own life. Back in 2008, Mr. Goldstein made his first appearance on the Bay Street stage as Bruce in the theater’s production of Christopher Durang’s “Beyond Therapy.” His costar was Tony Award winning actress Katie Finneran, whom he married in 2010. The couple now have two young boys and balancing career, family and marriage has become part of their routine as they both pursue successful acting careers — which in itself has been known to cause tensions between spouses.
“I commute back and forth from New York with my wife. She’s on ‘Bloodline’ that shoots in the Florida Keys,” explains Mr. Goldstein. “But for whatever reason, there has never been competition between us. Each job we get is a victory for the family. The challenging part is not knowing where we’re going to be year to year.”
One place Mr. Goldstein has been a lot in the past couple years is on the East End shooting Showtime’s popular series “The Affair.” Set in Montauk, Mr. Goldstein plays the conniving Oscar Hodges, sleazy owner of The Lobster Roll, who has it out for the Lockhart family and isn’t beyond resorting to blackmail to get his way.
Mr. Goldstein grew up in Huntington and over the years, visited the East End with friends. But since shooting “The Affair,” a series that delves into the dynamics of locals vs. summer people in the Hamptons, he’s come to have a new understanding and appreciation for this place.
“It was eye opening. I didn’t know about the underbelly of the working class people who resented the money and tourists,” he said. “If you think about it, of course that’s an issue. Tourists come out and loot the place and don’t treat it with the respect it deserves.”
While we’re on the topic of respect, since Oscar Hodges is the man fans of the series love to hate, will playing Steve Powell in “The Forgotten Woman” offer Mr. Goldstein an opportunity to redeem his evil reputation?
“Well believe me, this character eventually touches on it,” admits Mr. Goldstein. “He’s not always the nicest guy… but he’s definitely shaved down from Oscar.”
“The Forgotten Woman” by Jonathan Tolins, directed by Noah Himmelstein runs May 31 to June 19 at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Student Sunday matinees return this summer with high school and college students receiving one free admission for the 2 p.m. performances. Photo ID must be shown. Also returning this year is “Talkback Tuesday” with Bay Street’s Artistic Director Scott Schwartz and members of the cast following each Tuesday performance except for preview week. For tickets or information, call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.