Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Matt and Ben

Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers
P.S. 122, New York
(2003)

Matt & Ben is really great fun. It tells the tale of how the ultra-serious Matt Damon and larky Ben Affleck broke into movies.

Two-handed comedies written and performed by people recently out of college can be a chore but this award winner is a pleasurable exception.

The quality of the writing is generally high and under David Warren's very slick, professional direction, the pace rarely flags. The surprise that makes this a real winner is that the two Hollywood heart-throbs are portrayed by women.

Brenda Withers as Matt is very convincing, with a suitably low voice and the right look. The inappropriately shorter Mindy Kaling looks and sounds nothing like Ben but, in a strangely surrealistic way, this adds to the effect.

To avert the danger of boredom during the hour or so, there are also guest appearances from two big name celebrities, one a recluse and the other a superstar.

Throughout, the jocks' banter rings true and the two men's characters are well delineated. Whether the real anal Matt and happy-go-lucky Ben would recognise themselves or even appreciate their affectionate lampooning is an open question.

The plot is not that important but the boys' decision to switch their script-writing experiment from a plagiarism of Catcher in the Rye to Good Will Hunting is based on bizarre logic that makes the play border on magic realism.

This has enough good laughs and imaginative ideas to be significantly better (and more successful) than the average post-college comedy. It is the kind of show that would be a big hit in Edinburgh and the word is that it will reach Britain during 2004.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher