US actor Platt brings Dublin to New York stage

By Claudia Parsons
Friday, May 19, 2006; 2:11 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Irish accents are the flavor of the month on Broadway with three out of five of this year's Tony Award nominees for best actor starring in plays set on the Emerald Isle.

The stars of Martin McDonagh's blood-soaked black comedy "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" are genuine Irishmen, while Ralph Fiennes in "Faith Healer" hails from Britain, where Irish accents are more familiar.

But Ontario-born U.S. actor Oliver Platt, best known for his television roles on "The West Wing" and "Huff," knew he was in for a challenge in creating an authentic Dublin accent for his role as a guilt-ridden widower in Conor McPherson's "Shining City."

"What's so tricky about it is it's deceptively close in terms of the sounds to the way a lot of people speak in America," Platt said in an interview on Thursday. "But it's much flatter than a classic lilting leprechaun accent."

To prepare for the role of John, who consults a therapist after seeing the ghost of his recently deceased wife, he went to Dublin to hang out with the playwright, visit the locations where the play takes place and soak up the local accents.

"I wanted to go to Dublin just because if I had time, I would have been crazy not to," Platt said, two days after he was nominated for a Tony Award this week, edging out his own co-star Brian F. O'Byrne, originally from Ireland, who plays the therapist, a former priest battling his own demons.

"There's all these specific places I talk about, it really helped me visualize," Platt said.

He said McPherson had taken him on a tour of the places in a story that forms a 30-minute monologue at the heart of the play when John tells his therapist about an adulterous affair that didn't quite happen and a disastrous visit to a brothel.


"We had a great time, we drove the monologue, the story of it," Platt said. "It's very much a play about Dublin."

In a rave review, New York Times critic Ben Brantley said he first saw the play in London and was uneasy about its being staged with a new cast in New York. "The fragmented, pause-pocked dialogue that Mr. McPherson uses here is nearly as difficult to nail as that of Harold Pinter," Brantley wrote.

But he said: "Platt, mixing self-deprecating wryness with threadbare sorrow, rivets your attention."

A character actor with a string of big films credits from "Working Girl" in 1988 to last year's "Casanova" and "The Ice Harvest," Platt has raised his profile recently through television.

He won an Emmy nomination for playing a White House counsel on "The West Wing" and he is currently to be seen in Showtime's hit "Huff" playing a lawyer with few redeeming qualities.

"Shining City" is playing only a three-month run on Broadway and Platt plans to take time off to see more of his wife and three children, aged 7 to 12, in the summer. He is vague about future plans, though he speaks warmly of his experience as associate producer on the 1996 film "Big Night" and says he has several more producing projects in mind.

"I love producing but the biggest enemy of my producing career is my acting career," he said, adding that he is "incredibly unsophisticated" in planning his career.

"My 'plan' is I know the next job when I see it," he said.

The roots of his love of acting lie in his childhood as the son of a diplomat constantly moving around the world.

"It's not easy moving around a lot," he said. "I was cast in a school play when I was 8 years old, when I was a new kid in a very unfriendly school. It became a way for me to plug in as a new kid."

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