In Brett Neveu’s “The Earl,” the black comedy about a trio of brothers who engage in a crazed, ritualized game of violence (currently in an open late-night run at A Red Orchid Theatre), Danny Goldring arrives on stage two-thirds of the way through the show and proceeds to steal the thing right out from under his fellow actors. It’s not his fault. Who can compete with a rangy figure like Goldring—a quasi-Clint Eastwood, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas rolled into one?
He portrays The Earl, an aging action-movie star who settles the bloody goings-on among the feuding brothers once and for all. He growls his lines and offers a steely stare. He is a gentleman with a bullshit detector a mile long. It is at once an homage to, and mocking of, the old-school tough guy cliché. “Wait, I have to put my sunglasses on for this,” Goldring said recently over coffee. “When I’m describing this to people to get them to come, I say, ‘He’s an aging action-movie star who never loses at anything. Whips off his sunglasses Ever.’” Goldring has apparently never met a hammy moment he could pass up. And really, why should he?
This is, after all, a man who has built his career playing small roles on TV shows like the various “Star Trek” series—“I’ve played a Herodian, which was a Nazi reptile, if that’s not redundant”—and generally spends his time in Los Angeles, ham-central, looking for work. In fact, the Woodstock, Illinois native hadn’t been on stage in thirteen years “because I had been chasing the mortgage out in L.A.”
You don’t see many actors Goldring’s age doing rough-and-ready storefront theater these days in Chicago. Maybe that’s why his performance is such a hoot. “I’m gonna be here until at least the fall, and then I’ve got to go back out to L.A. and put my face back in the game,” he said. “Oh yeah, I’m blowing off pilot season, but I’m doing this from my heart.” Thump, thump goes the fist on his chest.
“Red Orchid is in-your-face, down-and-dirty, let’s-get-it-done, here’s-the-play-folks, we-have-no-budget, but-we-have-a-lot-of-heart,” he said. “These people are fucking talented. They are. I’m proud to be a part of these guys, whatever that part is.”
So far, “The Earl” seems destined for life after its Red Orchid run. A trip to Edinburgh next year is a possibility. A film version is also apparently “in the works,” according to Neveu, who says “it looks like it might come together as a low-budget sorta thing. We’ll see.”
Goldring, who should know better after so many years in Hollywood, is more optimistic. “It’s going to be really dark on film, and I think it’s going to be a cross between ‘Blue Velvet’ and a ‘Three Stooges’ movie.”
He cracked a smile, and then his cell phone rang. “I think that’s The Earl calling,” he joked. “Actually, it might be The Duchess. ‘Hello, whoever you are, I have to call you back.’” (Nina Metz)