“What do Tarot-reading beagles, over-the-hill-public-access-television-employed strippers, Jewish mothers, corn dogs on a stick and Elizabeth I have in common?” After reading this question on the flyer for “Common Knowledge,” now playing at the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre, I knew I was about to see something a little different.
The play was written and performed by two men, Doug Budin and Randall Rapstine, who call their duo BG&J, which stands for “Bald Guy and a Jew.” Before the show started, both actors came on stage and introduced the play with an energetic, yet silent routine that explained common knowledge as the cord that binds us.
The entire play was acted without props – while one of the actors performed, the other sat at a table to the side and made the accompanying sound effects. This only added to the level of ingenuity the show offered.
The play was essentially a set of eight skits beginning with “Car Troubles?” and ending with “Is That Kosher?” Connections were made between the diverse characters such as a southern auto mechanic who owns pets with supernatural powers, an eight-year-old boy with a flair for the dramatic and a distaste for his strict stepmother and a gay man who is a make-up artist for “Misty,” a former stripper’s public access television show. While the sketches seem to have no relation to one another because of the diversity of the characters, by the end of the play, I was able to see that their lives intertwined in a very clever, and often complex, way.
The show, running just under an hour and a half, kept me laughing the entire way through, using lines such as, “You’ve got more issues than the Ladies’ Home Journal.” The real humor, however, came from the situational comedy of the stories and seeing the same two grown men playing everything from a German exchange student on his first trip to America to a gossipy Texas schoolteacher.
Each offbeat character was portrayed with such enthusiasm that I was almost sad when each skit ended. This feeling didn’t last long, as I was immediately involved in the next character’s story, accent and quirky behavior. My favorite sketch, titled “Turbulence?,” was about two brothers who are stewards for South Carolina Air, an airline that only serves corn dogs, cheese fries and Coca-Cola. The back-and-forth banter between the brothers was hilarious, but the funniest moment was when Rapstine’s character broke out into a cheerleader routine.
The cozy atmosphere of the Downstairs Cabaret was the perfect setting for this witty comedy show. The ambience of the theater made me feel like I was an important part of the performance. I enjoyed looking around and seeing everyone else laughing alongside me. The theater was set up like a dinner theater, offering beverages along with an array of delicious desserts that could be enjoyed throughout the show.
The show was well worth the trip off campus. There is free parking, so drive if you can. The play runs every Wednesday to Sunday through Nov. 28 at the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre Two located at 172 West Main Street.
Tickets are $21, but are half price for full-time students with ID, except on Saturday nights. For show times and more information, visit http://www.downstairscabaret.com.
It’s true – we could all use some “Common Knowledge,” and a night of laughter to go along with it.
Colbert can be reached at