A 68-year-old actor who made a career playing Irish characters on stage in Philadelphia and New York City was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Center City early Tuesday. The accident forced doctors to amputate his right leg.

Police know little about the accident on Market Street between 11th and 12th Streets. It happened before 1 a.m., when a passerby found Michael Toner and alerted authorities.

No one reported witnessing the crash. No parts of the vehicle were found at the scene. And investigators have not had a chance to interview Toner, who was in critical condition Tuesday night at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and will not be able to provide details until he becomes responsive.

"We have nothing," Capt. John Wilczynski, commander of the Accident Investigation District, said during an afternoon news conference. "That's why we're a little frustrated right now."

Police were seeking area surveillance video.

Although the accident happened during heavy rain that limited visibility, the driver would have likely known he had struck somebody, Wilczynski said.

Toner, of the 4300 block of Vista Street in Holmesburg, has appeared in a number of theatrical productions here and in New York, according to online biographies.

In a 1988 interview with The Inquirer, Toner, a Mayfair native who graduated from what is now La Salle University, said he had carved out a niche playing Irish characters.

At that time, he had created two one-man shows. One was a compilation of selections from the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett called Beginning to End. The other was An Evening with Mr. Dooley, based on the fictitious Irish American colloquial philosophizer created by the Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne in the late 1800s.

"I sort of subspecialize as an actor in the dramatization of Irish and Celtic literature and characters," Toner said.

"When I'm dramatizing Irish literature, poetry, or fiction, or any of the Celtic - Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, Manx - it gives me such a depth of intellectual and emotional experience to work with," he said. "It's very rich material, I find, for actors. It really helps me expand my scope and depth."

He also has been a reader of Joyce's Ulysses at the annual June 16 celebration of Bloomsday at the Rosenbach Museum.

Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is being asked to call 215-685-3180 or 215-686-8477 (TIPS).

csimon@philly.com

215-854-2413 @carolinesimon66