Last week’s opening of “Metamorphoses” moved Twin Cities theatergoers a step closer to seeing twins Charity Jones and Felicity Jones Latta work together for the first time in 35 years.
Felicity is in “Metamorphoses” on the Guthrie Theater’s thrust stage, just one lobby away from Charity, who plays two roles in “Cyrano de Bergerac” on the proscenium stage. Although both have been busy actors for more than three decades, that’s as close as they’ve come to being in the same play since a Macalester College production of “Antigone” in 1984.
In that tragedy, they were supposed to plumb emotional depths. But they couldn’t stop laughing.
“Acting is artifice,” said Felicity, a longtime Theatre de la Jeune Lune company member now based on the East Coast. “When you’re acting, you believe what you’re doing and everything. But when you’re in the face of something that is very real, such as your twin sister, it becomes kind of silly.”
“We were very young,” interjected Charity, a former member of the ensemble at Children’s Theatre Company, where both women were students.
“I think we would do much better now, in our maturity,” Felicity concluded.
That may not happen anytime soon. Charity is one of the Twin Cities’ busiest actors, known for her work at the Jungle and Park Square (she also owns Laughing Water Gifts, which she plans to close shortly). But Felicity’s work is mostly in New York. In fact, “Metamorphoses” marks her Guthrie debut (she last performed here in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” national tour, which played at the Orpheum Theatre in 2016).
A recent conversation with the acting sisters offered hope that they soon will share a single stage. The conversation has been lightly edited.
Q: In your careers, has it ever been a plus to be twins?
Felicity: Not a plus. Always. Even in plays about twins, the thing is that you need to be able to tell the twins apart for those plays to work. I think it would be more about finding something for sisters.
Charity: There’s that Ibsen one we looked at once, “John Gabriel Borkman.”
Felicity: We keep our eye out.
Charity: And we keep hoping somebody will write something for us.
Q: How did it happen that you’re both working here at the same time?
Charity: Completely coincidental. It’s a dream come true. The only thing better would be if we were in the same play.
Felicity: I would occasionally get an audition for the Guthrie and I would almost always pass because there are so many really strong actresses here and if I got the job, I would feel like I was taking work away from them and, potentially, from Charity. There was a circle around the Twin Cities, that I would not come here. So it’s nice to have Mary [Zimmerman, “Metamorphoses” director, with whom Felicity worked on the 2001 off-Broadway and 2002 Broadway productions] say, “Would you want to do this?” and it happens to be here.
Charity: I think that’s an unnecessary restriction you’re putting on yourself.
Q: Have you played the same role in different productions?
Charity: I don’t think we have.
Felicity: For years, Charity was playing all those princesses at Children’s. I was at Jeune Lune, doing goofy stuff, and I worked with Tom Poole on “The Nightingale,” sort of a mashup of three different fairy tales, and I cast myself as the princess. But she was petulant, not the kind of princess that you could play. I just couldn’t do it.
Charity: She was a different sort of princess. Princesses come in all kinds, you know.
Q: Now that you’re in the same building, any chance you’ll pull the classic twin switcheroo and play each other’s role?
Felicity: No. Never!
Charity: Before “Cyrano” was cast, I was ready to call and say, “I’d love to understudy my sister.”
Felicity: Throughout our professional lives, we tried very hard to be our own people, to be separate. Over the years, one of us was wanted for a project and wasn’t available and, occasionally, they would say, “Oh, but she has a twin sister!” Which, partly, you are happy about because you want your twin to have work but, partly, you’re a little offended, because we are not the same. We’re not interchangeable. I don’t think it’s ever happened that one of us picked up work the other wasn’t able to do. Is that right?
Charity: No, I did. Acting Company [in New York City] asked Felicity to do a season. She had done one with them and they asked her to do the next season but she couldn’t, so they asked me. We did “Twelfth Night.”
Q: Knowing each other’s work so well, is it hard to surprise each other?
Felicity: You had a cold when I saw you in “Cyrano” and I heard it in your voice and was a little bit nervous for you. The other thing is, when I was younger, watching you, I would see certain mannerisms that bothered me. I would say, “Oh, I wish she wouldn’t do that.” And now I realize that I have the same mannerisms and I don’t like them because ...
Charity: Skunk smells his own!
Felicity: Yes! They are also my mannerisms, probably our mother’s mannerisms. But now I see my own work more clearly and I can see how much we are different as well as alike.
Q: What are your favorite performances of each other’s?
Felicity: Her current performances in “Cyrano,” there’s a comfort level and she’s doing what is required to tell the story, but it’s all clear and you’re drawn to her because she’s a very interesting human. I won’t say it’s my favorite but it’s the one I’ve seen most recently and it’s exceptional.
Charity: The funny thing that comes to mind for me is: Do you remember doing an acting scene from Brian Friel’s “Lovers?”
Felicity: I do.
Charity: You blew me away in that. We were both young, studying at Children’s Theatre, and every two weeks, third-year kids would perform scenes for other students, and she did this amazing scene.
Felicity: So I peaked at 15.
Charity: No, but it felt like you were at a different level at that point. And “Children of Paradise” [Jeune Lune’s 1992 show] was amazing.
Felicity: Oh, I don’t know why I didn’t say her Scrooge. I got to see that last Christmas [at the Guthrie] and it was such a moving “A Christmas Carol.” So emotional in a way it often isn’t. I was really flabbergasted.
Q: Will you hang out in your Guthrie dressing rooms?
Charity: We can’t hear our own plays from each other’s dressing room.
Felicity: They’re actually on different floors.
Charity: Which is too bad. But we’re going to hang out.
Felicity: I’ve had to tell everybody else I know in town that Charity has my time accounted for.
Charity: We’ll be walking.
Felicity: We walk all around town. We hang around at her house [the Minneapolis home they grew up in]. We have some family projects.
Charity: There are many boxes to be gone through. Photographs, memorabilia.
Q: Do the two of you see yourselves in each other?
Felicity: We don’t. When I look at Charity, I don’t see me.
Charity: Me, either.
Felicity: However, I would be open to someone showing me video evidence of how alike we are on stage. I haven’t seen it. But I might be surprised by it if I did.