New York City Theater
Next Stage, Fringe Festival
WIn the Fringe Festival, where the offerings run the gamut from torturous to terrific, "Common Knowledge," fortunately, falls into the latter category. This two-man piece results from the combined genius of two performer/writers--Randall Rapstine and Doug Budin, who bill themselves as "a Bald Guy and a Jew," respectively.
They introduce the show with a series of flip cards and not a single vocal comment, a touch which proclaims the off-beat show that is to come. And from that one goes quickly into the body of "Common Knowledge," which is anything but common, but certainly offers knowledge of life in these United States.
The two work easily in unison, but alternate in a series of comic, touching portrayals. While one performs, the other provides the sound effects (as in old-time radio). Each character is treated with varying mixes of tenderness and humor: there are the two gay men who awkwardly navigate a first encounter, a young naïve German who arrives on these foreign shores, an eight-year-old budding playwright, mothers and sons who come to terms with each other's failings. Male, female, youth, adult, foreigner, 200 percent American, they all combine to create the Budin/Rapstine dramatis personae. And, in a kind of six degrees of separation, they all connect to each other, through blood relation or casual encounter. Consequently, the disparate pieces of the puzzle fit together, to become a unifying piece.
In all, Doug Budin and Randall Rapstine are consummate performers and writers of considerable skill, resulting in the gallery of endearing portraits which is "Common Knowledge."
-- Irene Backalenick
August 15, 2004