MATT & BEN by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, directed by David Warren, with Hilary Doyle and Jane Spence. Presented by macIDeas at the Poor Alex (296 Brunswick). Previews from tonight (September 30), opens Tuesday (October 5) and runs to November 14, Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday 8 pm, Thursday 7 and 10 pm, matinees Saturday 4 pm, Sunday 2 pm. $20-$35, limited student/rush available. 416-872-1111. www.mattandbentheplay.com. Rating: NNNNN
Hilary Doyle is trying to get her hair to look like Matt Damon's, but she's having colour issues.
"I'm in transition," she says, opening the door to the rehearsal room for Matt & Ben, in which she plays Damon to Jane Spence's Ben Affleck.
"Right now I'm more orange than dirty blond," she laughs. "I look like Casey from Mr. Dress-up."
"Without Finnigan," chimes in Spence.
Hair and gender issues aside, you can kinda see in Doyle the resemblance to the toothy star of The Bourne Identity, just as Spence's mug in a certain light can suggest the narrow face belonging to the Jersey Girl star.
"It's amazing how much a shake of the head or a smile can do to suggest them," says Spence.
"And I'm working on Matt's gravelly voice," adds Doyle.
"I've always thought of myself as a tomboy, but it takes something like this to point out all your feminine qualities."
Not that the pair are going for a straight imitation of the two stars. The play originated a few years ago from the pens of Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, two recent Dartmouth grads and unemployed actor/writers looking for work.
Flipping through old tabloids, they were amazed at the number of stories about the love lives of best buddies Damon and Affleck.
They started improvising scenes as the two guys, which led to a whimsical play about the actors set at the time when they were writing their Oscar-winning, and career-changing, screenplay for Good Will Hunting.
Kaling and Withers performed the play at the New York Fringe, remounted it off-Broadway and then travelled to L.A.
Now productions are springing up all over the States, and the pair have landed a TV show produced by Steve Martin.
How do Spence and Doyle account for the show's runaway success? Our celebrity-obsessed culture?
"They're household names," admits Spence, whose recent theatre credits include Theatre by the Bay's As You Like It and various roles in the Henry plays at Stratford. "We all know everyone they've dated and how long the relationships have lasted."
"But in another way their story is such a North American dream," adds Doyle, a member of the Second City National Touring Company. "Here were two guys who basically had nothing.
"They had quiet careers prior to Good Will Hunting, but then they made something happen. It's a great parable."
In the play, the pair are working on an adaptation of The Catcher In The Rye when the script for Good Will Hunting literally drops from the sky. Is it a sign from God? A test? A curse?
More important, is this bit of artistic licence actually legal?
"Matt and Ben have given their blessing to the play but have never seen any of the productions," says Doyle. "We've invited them to Toronto, so who knows?"
The two insist the show amounts to more than a one-note joke - say, a sketch on SNL.
"It's not us winking at the audience," says Spence.
"Our characters take what's happening very seriously, which makes it funnier.
"And there are lots of truths here about friendship, competition and two actors just living together."