Now playing at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, “The Mystery of Irma Vep” features two outstanding young comedic actors, Douglas Reynolds and Christopher Bange. Both actors are from small towns in the Pacific Northwest; both have bachelor’s degrees in Theater; both have been acting all of their lives, with the occasional waiter or bus-person job when they are not performing.
Christopher primarily does comedic work. He has created several original one- and two-man shows. This summer he will be touring Fringe Festivals in Canada with his solo magic show, “More Bange for Your Buck.”
Douglas, a recent graduate of Southern Oregon University, is also a writer. He worked with Portland Etc. and was an extra in Hollywood before returning to Ashland to play in “The Mystery of Irma Vep.”
We met one Friday afternoon at Martino’s, after a particularly lively Thursday night performance.
EH: How are the audiences?
CB: Really great.
DR: Last night, in particular, we were kind of surprised. On the very same night we were sold out, and they were they were smart too. They got some of the jokes sooner than we got them.
CB: Luckily in the scene we were able to let them know to, “Calm down, we’ll get there in a minute.” Sometimes you can have a little give and take with the audience.
EH: I loved the show. Your performances with those big sad eyes and deadpan expressions reminded me of some great comedians such as Peter Sellers and Buster Keaton. What makes that quality so hilarious in comedy?
DR: The emotions are just as real as they are in a drama; that’s what makes it funny. The characters don’t find the situation funny, the audience does.
CB: Behind every great comedian is desperation; you know, lying on a wood floor just balling their eyes out. It gives them a very empathetic appeal to the audience. Deadpan acting is a style of comedy that is definitely in vogue right now. It’s been around for hundreds of years, but it is more prevalent in all comedy today. Watch any sit-com and most of it is very”¦
CB: Everything in the ’80s was very hopeful, very happy, with the happy ending, and everything was great. Now we all know that life is really hard; and we are going to show that misery; and you are going to laugh at it, and you do.
DR: Our age group appreciates that. My take on acting and life in general is that if you laugh first, then you cry harder, but if you cry first, then you laugh smarter because the greater understanding that you have of life the more willing you are to laugh about it.
EH: What is Pat Patton like to work with as a director?
DR: Pat knows comedy. He knows exactly what needs to happen to get the laugh. But at the same time is very willing to let us come in and throw out some ideas.
CB: He was definitely open to ideas. I like to have a creative stake and bring my experiences to the table. I need to be creatively utilized. I like to be involved in the process.
DR: One thing I really enjoyed about working with Chris is that every day he was coming in with something new that he wanted to try out. Some things we kept and some things we didn’t, but that’s what’s fun about rehearsing. I was in stitches every single day.
“The Mystery of Irma Vep” plays Thursdays through Mondays with brunch matinees at 1 p.m., Sundays through May 31, at Oregon Cabaret Theatre. For tickets and information, call 488-2902.
Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor’s degree in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from San Francisco State University. She studied acting at The American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and is a founding member of San Francisco’s Magic Theatre. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.