The theater star was trying her best not to sound annoyed.
For more than three decades, she has taken the stage as Felicity Jones in multiple dramatic and comic roles. She played Aphrodite, the goddess of love, in Mary Zimmerman’s Tony-winning 2002-03 Broadway production of “Metamorphoses.” In the 1990s, she was a mainstay at the magical Theatre de la Jeune Lune in her hometown of Minneapolis. Over the past dozen years, she has made the Yale Repertory Theatre her unofficial home theater.
But now, in the midst of a yearlong Broadway tour that brings her home this week for the regional premiere of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” she has had to change her name to avoid being confused with a rising film star of the same name.
The stage actor has gotten the screen star’s fan mail, her kudos, even her checks.
It rankles a little.
“It’s not even her fault, really,” said Jones of her British-born counterpart, the Oscar-nominated star of “The Theory of Everything,” who graces the current cover of Entertainment Weekly for her role in the upcoming “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One.”
“She’s famous — more famous than me. And I’m just small fish. But it does get tiring.” As a result, she has added her husband’s name and is now billed professionally as Felicity Jones Latta.
Playing an ‘everymom’
She can channel her frustration into her latest character.
She plays Judy, the mother in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which opens Tuesday for a weeklong run at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. Adapted from Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel, the 2015 Tony winner for best play revolves around a 15-year-old autistic boy suspected of killing a neighbor’s pooch. Much of the action takes place in Christopher’s imagination — the play has minimal set pieces and lots of mood lighting to suggest scenery.
Jones Latta likes the meatiness of her character, Judy: “She’s ill-equipped to be a mother in general, and Christopher’s mother in particular. She’s so imperfect but so real. I get her.”
She sees Judy as a sort of “everymom.” “She suffers from feelings of inadequacy.”
The character contrasts with Jones Latta’s own role offstage. She and her husband, Tim Latta, are raising their two children, ages 10 and 13, in small-town Connecticut. Her husband used to be a dancer with Pilobolus and Momix, two companies known for their physical derring-do. Lately, he has been doing mask work.
“We live in the northwest corner of the state, in a renovated barn,” she said. “It’s a hotbed for artists, and I’m constantly surprised to find out who lives there. A lot of fancy people. Not us.”
The last time she performed in the Twin Cities was two decades ago, when Theatre de la Jeune Lune remounted its hit show “Yang Zen Frogs.” As she spoke from the road, she betrayed a momentary fear that hometown audiences may not remember her.
Then again, many have seen her identical twin, Charity Jones, onstage at the Jungle and the Guthrie. That’s one bit of identity confusion Jones Latta is happy to take.
“My sister sets a high bar — audiences know and appreciate her,” she said. “I don’t want to disappoint.”
In the Twin Cities, she hopes to spend as much time as possible with Charity. She mentioned drinking red wine and eating gourmet specialties cooked by John Middleton, Charity’s husband, who is an actor and chef. And she’ll visit old haunts, including Minnehaha Falls, the museums and the lakes.
Jones Latta wanted to apologize in advance to old friends who won’t be able to see the performance.
“My whole cast is sick of me talking about how great Minneapolis is,” she said. “They’ve heard about the weather and are panicking, but they’ll forget all of it once they get here.”
As for the name change, the folks behind the show were pleased that there wouldn’t be any confusion about the actors. “Don’t want someone coming to see me, but not me,” she said.
And she’s thankful for “Curious Incident” for other reasons, including that it brings her back home at a holiday juncture.
“It’s a big-hearted show that really celebrates difference,” she said. “We take a journey into something that’s unique, and get to see the world from a whole different perspective. That’s a good message for our times.”