nytheatre.com review by Steve Chasey
August 15, 2004
It seems like any show can find a review with a glowing catchphrase to use for advertising; it is refreshing to see one that actually lives up to its own hype. Doug Budin and Randal Rapstine's performance of Common Knowledge flows from them with so much humor, honesty, and sensitivity, that the packed house was hardly a surprise.
The duo takes on the roles of a large, vaguely interconnected group, ranging from an eight-year-old playwright who has written over three thousand plays, all of which seem to be three lines about him and his mother, to a redneck car mechanic in the middle of nowhere who reminisces about his lavish dinner-party-life of the past. All of the characters are larger than life, living stereotypes who take that position and rejoice in it. They run with their political incorrectness held high overhead like a banner, charging ahead with wit and chutzpah.
The first few scenes, each introduced by the mime-like flipping of giant index cards, come across as individual stand-up comedy routines. However, contained in them are the seeds of connections and ideas that unite the storyline. The tone of the performance shifts subtly towards these ideas—of family, of interconnection, of acceptance—until a surprising moment in a scene entitled "Aisle or Window?" when all at once the touching gravity of the moment stills a crowd that has as of yet not stopped laughing. Despite all the humor and wit of the performance, that moment of silence is the heart of Common Knowledge; establishing a unity in the audience that reflects the human commonalities Budin and Rapstine portray so eloquently onstage.