A Date With Destiny
Heather Graham makes her New York stage debut in the play Recent Tragic Events. It’s a comedy. Really.
‘When I tell people that I’m doing this play called Recent Tragic Events, I guess it sounds really sad, but it’s funny! But maybe this sounds even worse: ‘A play about September 11 that’s funny’—doesn’t that sound horrible?”
Heather Graham is still deciding how to describe the play, but she knows she loves it. Craig Wright’s play about a blind date that takes place on September 12, 2001, in Minneapolis drew critical acclaim and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Best Original Play during its Washington, D.C., run (with another actress in the lead role), and when it begins previews September 5 at Playwrights Horizons, it will have done what no script until now has managed to do—lure Graham onto the New York stage.
Graham says she just had to play Waverly Wilson, the midwestern ad executive with a twin sister in New York and a “book guy” blind date in her apartment: “My friends read it and they were just like, ‘Jesus! It’s like this part was written for you!’ The way she talks is very similar to the way that I talk.” And that way is? “She changes subjects really fast. I non-sequitur from one thing to another and people will be like, ‘Whoa! Where’d you get that from?’ Waverly’s trying to make everything all right, but she’s anxious underneath.”
The subject matter hits as close to home for her as the character’s voice. Graham was flying into New York the morning of September 11 to move into her new downtown apartment. “We passed by the World Trade Center and one building had smoke coming out of it, and my friend and I were like, ‘What is that?’ ”
Such coincidences are a major component of Recent Tragic Events. Waverly and her date discover they have virtually the same book collection. Her date’s favorite author, Joyce Carol Oates, is related to Waverly, and Oates’s flight happens to be diverted to Minneapolis, where she drops in on the couple for drinking games and a discussion about free will. (In one instance of the play’s “avant-garde stuff,” as Graham describes it, Oates is played by a sock puppet.)
Although she still has her house in L.A., Graham will be spending the play’s run at her New York pied-à-terre, indulging in a certain amount of civic pride: “People from New York are so much more loyal and behind their city. People in L.A. are so used to L.A. being trashed that they’re just like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . ’ With L.A., you have to learn the secret little pockets that are cool. New York, you just walk down the street and it’s pretty obvious.” A.C.
Details: Recent Tragic Events, Playwrights Horizons (September 28).
Best of The Rest
Berkshire Village Idiot Barry Edelstein directs Michael Connor’s solo play about growing up in a small Massachusetts town. In previews for a September 7 opening. (Zipper Theatre; 212-239-6200.)