Matt & Ben by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, directed by David Warren, with Hilary Doyle and Jane Spence. Presented by macIDeas in association with Victoria Lang, Pier Paolo Piccoli, Stephen Pevner, Daniel Bain and the Drake at the Poor Alex (296 Brunswick). 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. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In Matt & Ben, writers Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers posit that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning (and career-making) script for Good Will Hunting literally fell from the sky.
The pair, who also played the roles off-Broadway and in L.A., use this slim premise to examine deeper themes about friendship, competitiveness and stardom that make the show more than a 65-minute comedy sketch.
The serious, studied Matt ( Hilary Doyle ) is collaborating on adapting J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye into a film with pal Ben ( Jane Spence ), who's more free-spirited and carefree. When the Good Will Hunting script drops from their ceiling, they wonder, "Is it a sign from God? A test?"
More importantly, if they're going to make the script into a movie, who will play the lead?
The production, directed by David Warren , is enjoyably fast-paced, and the temporal and physical shifts are handled efficiently. The fact that the two celebrities are played by women adds a note of artificiality. OK, we're told, this is heightened reality, a playful game, something emphasized by Michael Gianfrancesco 's colourful Pee-wee's Slacker Playhouse set.
There are plenty of laughs, as when a pre-J.Lo Ben admits he likes Latino women. Or when Gwyneth Paltrow (Spence in a cute turn) gives Matt advice about how a particular film can change one's career.
Doyle and Spence bring plenty of energy and craft to their roles without descending into parody or caricature.
What's ironic about the script is that it's as disposable as most things in pop culture. Sure, it's a sweet and occasionally subtle look at the fictional genesis of two of the more appealing stars of this decade.
But most audiences will probably remember it as vividly as an E! Channel celebrity bio.