Matt & Ben was written by the clever Mindy Kaling and her real life best friend Brenda Withers in 2003 and became an instant hit with audiences when it opened in New York City. It’s the sort of play that as you watch, you can tell that it was clearly written by two good friends who obviously share a lot of chemistry with one another.
This version of Matt & Ben stars Gillian English and Manda Whitney as Hollywood best friends Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as they struggle to write a script that will shoot them to stardom. English’s portrayal as a clueless and dense Ben is the perfect counter to Whitney’s version of an uptight and perfectionist Matt, who forces Affleck to sit through staring exercises that Affleck hilariously deems “weird and gay”.
The play opens with Ben saying, “Adaptation is the sincerest form of flattery,” which begins an hour’s worth of witty banter between him and Matt. The two friends have decided to “adapt” or rather, plagiarize, The Catcher in the Rye, in the hopes of winning an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and becoming famous in the process.
Their efforts to adapt the script are interrupted when the script for Good Will Hunting magically falls out of the sky into Ben’s apartment, seemingly a gift (or curse) from God. As great as Matt and Ben recognize the script is, it causes disagreements and full-on physical fights between the friends and threatens to tear apart their epic bromance.
One of the best scenes in the show is a flashback to Matt and Ben’s high school talent show. Matt painstakingly learns to play the guitar over the course of six months so he can sing Bridge Over Troubled Water to nab the winning prize, a $40 gift certificate to Applebee’s. He invites Ben to play the tambourine in accompaniment but Ben ends up stealing the show and turning into a comedy act by dancing around banging on the tambourine and dancing on top of an embarrassed Matt.
Another hilarious part was when Ben attempts to read the role in Good Will Hunting that will later be played by Minnie Driver. He squeals out her lines in a high-pitched, excessive cockney accent that had me wiping tears from my eyes.
If you’re able to make it to the last showing of this play, I definitely recommend it. You’ll love the intimate theatre setting and you’ll get a kick out of the hilarious parody of these two best friends. Plus any set that uses a box of Junior Mints as a prop is always a winner in my book.
-Matt & Ben is playing at the Annex Theatre (730 Bathurst Street) until November 26, 2011
-Shows run Wednesday-Monday 8pm, matinee November 19 at 3pm.
-Ticket prices range from $18-$20
-Tickets are available online at totix.ca
Photo of Gillian English and Manda Whitney taken by Sharilyn Johnson.