She is luscious and lanky; he is solid with sad and mischievous eyes; and they are dating.
Alexandra Blouin and Christopher Bange are the entire cast of "Red, White and Tuna," now playing at the Oregon Cabaret Theater. She is luscious and lanky; he is solid with sad and mischievous eyes. They are dating. We got together at Pangea over steaming bowls of soup.
EH: How would you describe "Red, White and Tuna"?
CB: It follows the story of about 20 characters on a day in the life of the small town of Tuna, Texas. It's definitely a fictional place, but completely real, because the gentlemen who wrote it are from a small town in Texas and are essentially doing their friends and family. They've made a 30-some-odd-year career with the "Tunas."
This is the third in a series of four. There's "Greater Tuna," and "Tuna Christmas," then "Red, White and Tuna," and now, "Tuna Does Vegas." It's not only a wonderful franchise, but they are touring it at the same time. They wrote it and perform it.
There are people who call themselves "Tuna Heads" and will travel many, many, many miles if any production of "Greater Tuna" is going on because they love it so much. It's very soap opera-esque in the way that it develops. In every show a new twist happens. It's usually the same characters for the most part. It's traditionally a two-man show. The director wanted to shake it up a little bit and cross-cast it. How lucky that we got this opportunity together. How often does that happen? It's been very nice not being apart.
EH: Is there any advice you have for couples on how to deal with separations?
CB: For actors it's part of the business. If you want to keep working, you often have to work out of town. It's hard. Skype is good.
AB: The director, Lenny Neimark, has approached this play in a very different way than it is usually attacked. He's definitely approached it in a more naturalistic acting style. He de-emphasized the physical comedy aspects of it, although that is kind of inherent in the script.
He wanted to play the relationships.
CB: He wanted to draw out the drama of the piece. There's definitely a lot of comedy in the show. I think instead of really pointing at the comedy, he wanted to root the play in realism.
EH: Is that funnier?
CB: I think comedy plays are always better if they have a little meat on them. If there's some meat, it always makes comedy stronger. There's a lot of meat on this.
AB: The costumes inform the characters a lot.
CB: For some characters, I was lost until I put the costume on. It gave the character a stance. I'm a very physical actor, and I definitely go from the outside in. The costumes put a stamp in the audience's mind, especially when you're doing a show where you have to play 10 different characters. We have at least two costume changes per character.
In the end, we just rehearsed the play and then let the audience give it the final tweak, which is important in any comedy. You rehearse a play for a long time, and you're in this insulated environment with the director, technicians and a stage manager. After a while you don't know what's funny anymore, until you put it up before an audience. Then you find those laughs.
"Red, White and Tuna" runs through March 28. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays and at 1 p.m. Sundays. For tickets and information, call 488-2902, or order tickets online at www.oregoncabaret.com.
Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Contact her at email@example.com.