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"Snapper' a big catch for Meaney

This year's list of Golden Globe nominees for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy read like a who's who of movie stars _ with the exception of one "who's he?"

Viewers at home probably were split over their choices _ Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp or Kevin Kline _ and united in puzzlement when the cameras caught the fifth nominee.

Colm Meaney, star of the joyful Irish comedy The Snapper, grinned with the satisfaction of a man in a place he never dreamed he'd be. Stephen Frears' comedy, based on the novel by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments), had only 94 prints in circulation nationwide, courtesy of its U.S. distributor, Miramax. Yet Meaney's warm, funny performance as the befuddled father of an unwed, pregnant daughter got the notice and the nomination it deserved.

"I was thrilled to be on that little list," said Meaney in a recent telephone interview.

The only viewers who may have recognized the actor at the Golden Globes are fans of the syndicated television series Deep Space Nine, in which Meaney plays O'Brien. Acting in "outer space" never paid off like his down-to-earth performance in The Snapper.

Meaney's nomination was the latest twist in the history of The Snapper, which unexpectedly wowed audiences at the Cannes Film Festival last May and triggered a minor bidding war for its distribution rights. Film festivals honored it, with Meaney named Best Actor at Chicago's fest. Slowly, The Snapper has worked its way around the art film circuit, including current engagements at the Tampa Theatre and Movies at Pinellas Park.

Those lucky enough to find it have discovered a gem. Even with its provocative subject, The Snapper is an entertaining lesson in family values. Meaney plays Dessie Curley, a role he originated in Alan Parker's adaptation of The Commitments. Dessie's a working-class stiff: not dumb, but easily befuddled. He also has a caring heart. When his daughter reveals she's expecting a baby _ a "snapper" in pub speak _ both traits lead to high comedy and stronger bonds.

"Roddy is such a great writer that the script is so well-observed and truthful," said Meaney. "In a way, it was very easy to play. Like great music; you just play the right notes."

Meaney couldn't rely on experience to play the caring father/referee of this volatile household. He's married to actor Bairbre Dowling, but their daughter Brenda is only 9 _ years away from any "snapper" possibilities of her own.

"No, I haven't had to deal with that," Meaney laughed. "And I hope I don't. But if I do, I would hope I would react as well as Dessie did in the film."

OLYMPIA THE ORATO _ Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis chuckled when it was suggested that tonight's appearance at Ruth Eckerd Hall is another example of the "Dukakis Democratic compassion" her cousin Gov. Michael Dukakis displayed in his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1988.

"Well, there's an attention to social conditions that was very much a part of my growing up," said Dukakis in a telephone interview last week. "I try to articulate the issues I think are relevant for women and the options that might exist for them _ giving voice to these very important things."

Dukakis will speak at 7 p.m. today on the subject of role models and career opportunities as part of the "Week of the Woman" celebration, sponsored by Morton Plant Health Systems.

Tickets are $10, available at the Ruth Eckerd Hall box office. Call 791-7400 for information.

FILM SERIES ALMOST GOT AWAY _ Following the popularity of its recent "Films That (Almost) Got Away" series, the Tampa Theatre has announced plans for a second collection of cinematic gems that may have slipped through your movie schedule during their first runs. Each will be shown once, on Sundays at 3 p.m.

Four films that made my top-10 list for 1993 are included. Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet returns March 20. Martin Scorsese's sumptuous The Age of Innocence is offered on March 27. Don't dare miss the chance to see Searching for Bobby Fischer on April 3. You won't find more intelligent family-oriented entertainment. Robert Altman's complex ensemble drama Short Cuts is scheduled on April 17. The series concludes on April 24 with Combination Platter, a Chinese comedy of cultural and culinary differences.

Tickets are $3, available at the box office. Call 223-8287 for information.