Advertising executive Waverly Wilson welcomes a blind date to her Minneapolis apartment. The neighbors drop by for pizza and drinks. The conversation is funny and often awkward, especially after the tequila comes out and Joyce Carol Oates joins the party. But Waverly is worried because she can’t reach her identical twin sister in New York City.
Craig Wright’s play “Recent Tragic Events,’’ set on Sept. 12, 2001, often seems like a straightforward dark comedy, complete with sock puppet. But there’s more going on than that, especially for Aimee Rose Ranger, who plays Waverly in the Whistler in the Dark Theatre production, which opened Friday. The actress has an identical twin, April, and though the play’s 9/11 angle gets most of the attention, she says it also touches profoundly on the nature of the twin experience.
“April and I often have moments when we’re suddenly, without any reason, afraid that the other one is dead, and we’ll call each other in a panic. It happens like once a year,’’ Aimee says. “Before the audition, reading this play, I panicked and called my sister.’’
The twin element was part - but only part - of why Aimee was cast, says director Bridget Kathleen O’Leary. “When we knew that we were doing the production, she was one of the first people that popped into my head. She has this natural kind of effusive, joyous energy about her,’’ O’Leary explains. “And then I found out that she has an identical twin sister. And you just kind of have this click, like oh, my God, could life be any more perfect?’’
April is a performance poet and playwright, and both sisters live in Jamaica Plain. They created plays together for their family when they were kids, but haven’t worked together recently, Aimee says.
She points to a speech late in the play when Waverly asks her blind date if he knows what it’s like to have a twin. He says no. Waverly tells him, “It’s so much different and better, you can’t even imagine. And if something’s happened to her . . . you don’t know. I’m totally screwed.’’ That’s right on, says Aimee.
“April has this really great poem she’s written about our - about me. April’s always been much more comfortable talking about our twin identity. There’s a part in this poem where she talks about us being the same egg at one point in the womb, and then she says, ‘Aimee Rose hates it when I talk about the womb.’ Which is true. It freaks me out. People saying, ‘You were once one person.’ All of that makes me feel, ewww.’’
The 9/11 angle also gave her pause when she first heard about the play. She was in high school when the twin towers fell, old enough to absorb what had happened, but has been researching by watching lots of 9/11 video online and talking to friends who were in New York at the time. Combine that with “having a lot of interesting conversations with my sister about our twin identity’’ and reading tons of Waverly’s favorite author, Anthony Trollope, and the role has become rather consuming. Aimee says she’s not a Method actor, but she’s found herself crying at rehearsals sometimes when it’s not really called for in the script.
“I am really thankful that Bridget is understanding of how hard it is for me,’’ Aimee says. “There have been rehearsals where Waverly wouldn’t be crying at that moment, but I can’t not be crying at that moment, because I’m saying the words ‘my sister,’ and I can’t help making the immediate, like, physical connection to my own sister. And she just lets me cry it out and then we move on. It’s a relief that she [understands] and knows that I’m not usually so weepy.’’
“It is upsetting every night,’’ O’Leary says, “to have to watch her consider that it is possible to live in a world where her twin might not be there one day.’’
Everybody has baggage, though, the director says, and good actors, a group in which she clearly includes Aimee, know what baggage is useful to bring into the room and what baggage is useful to keep at home.
“People ask me what’s it like having a twin, and I say it’s my only experience. I don’t know what it’s like not having a twin,’’ Aimee says. “So it’s interesting to be able to bring that to a character, because most characters I play aren’t twins.’’
O’Leary had her own odd encounter with the twin experience. At an event a few weeks ago, she spied a familiar face across the room and thought, “Oh, Aimee Rose! Why is she at the StageSource job fair?
“And she passed me two or three times and looked at me strangely,’’ O’Leary says, “and I thought, why is she being so weird today?’’ When they finally spoke, of course, it turned out that it was April.