New York Daily News Extra
May 10, 1990

 A Change of Accents
In 'Zoya's Apartment,' Bronson Pinchot shows
that he's no stranger to the stage

by Patricia O'Haire
Daily News Staff Writer

Bronson Pinchot has grown a beard for his role in "Zoya's Apartment," a Russian play opening at the Circle in the Square.  Has it fooled anyone?  Not a bit.

When he and a photographer went out into the street in front of his apartment building to take pictures, the fotog came back impressed.

"Must have been 14 or 15 people rushed up to him.  Wanted his autograph.  On Seventh Ave., no less!"

That's what comes of having a hit TV show, and Pinchot certainly does.  For the past five years, he has been coming into people's living rooms as Balki Bartokomous, the innocent Greek sheepherder trying to cope with life in Chicago on the ABC sitcom "Perfect Strangers."  But that just shows what a good actor he really is.

Balki is about as far removed from Bronson as Greece is from Zoya's Moscow apartment, but Pinchot seems to be able to straddle the two without much trouble, though he insists that none of the performers in the play -- including himself -- is using an accent.  And isn't that special, especially for someone who seems to have (up to now, anyhow) made his living accentuating?

"I don't know how that happened," he says.  "I didn't start out that way.  I always had kind of a talent for mimicking people, and I could do it in their voices.  But I never thought that would be the way people thought of me thereafter."

It is strange.  Pinchot, who's just 30, was born in New York but raised in California.  He's a studious fellow who reads a lot, collects antiques and lives in a house near the beach in Malibu.

While in high school, he thought he'd like to be an illustrator, using another of his talents.  But one of his teachers and his mother combined forces and talked him into applying to Yale.  He figured he didn't have a prayer of being accepted, but to his surprise, he was, and he spent the next four years in New Haven on a scholarship.

But all thoughts of illustration fled his mind once he answered a plea on a bulletin board looking for anyone interested in acting to audition for a play.  He showed up, was cast, and so was the die.  He has never turned back.

In college, he did classics and classical comedy.  He even sang -- as one of the strolling minstrels at the Stratford (Conn.) Shakespeare Festival in the summer.

But he was eager to do more.  "It was strange," he says, stretched out on a sofa in the big, old-fashioned apartment he's living in while he's here.  "When I first got to college, I felt, wow -- here I am, I could die happy!  But four years later, I was a senior and all I could think of was, get me out of here.  I want to get on to something else!"  He feels that way about his role in "Perfect Strangers": "Five years is a long time to be one character," he says with a voice that sounds weary.  "That's 96 half-hours I've done in character.  Do you know how much time that is?  A lot."

But right now, he's spending his three months off as an entirely different person.  "I worked for Ted Mann at Circle in the Square seven years ago in a workshop [Mann is artistic director].  He liked what I did, and we've kept in touch.  And here it is seven years later, I came East to be on the David Letterman show and I knew the hiatus was coming up, so I called and asked if he had anything I could do.

"He said 'Yes!' right away, and I met with the director, Boris Morozov, who doesn't speak a word of English, but we got along very well.  At first we spoke through an interpreter, but he still doesn't speak English and we don't speak Russian, but we all understand each other.

"He's a director of the Maly Theater in Moscow, and he came here as part of an exchange -- Ted directed a play there last year.  I liked him right away.  I can spot a good director or a good antique -- even though I'm myiopic -- anywhere.  So I agreed.  [It's a three-character play; the other two actors are Linda Thorson and Robert LuPone.]

"Anyway, Boris wanted to do this play here.  It's a satire, we call it a 'tragic farce.'  It was written by Mikhail Bulgakov, and it takes a lot of shots at the corruption in bureaucracy, and that's what I'll be doing the next few months."

Now that is special!