With a little good will, you’re going to love ‘Matt & Ben’
You’ll need to suspend your disbelief when you enter the Central Square Theater for their delightful production of “Matt & Ben.”
The roles of two of the most famous Cambridge homeys to make it in Hollywood are played by women. And, if that’s not enough, you’re asked to believe that their Oscar-winning script “Good Will Hunting” literally fell out of the sky and landed in Affleck’s dumpy living room.
Significantly more whimsical than believable, “Matt & Ben” successfully captures the duo’s onetime youthful exuberance with humor and lampooning that could easily feel like playwright envy in lesser hands.
Marianna Bassham delivers a stellar performance as Ben Affleck. Whether devouring pizza, struggling to spell or espousing dimwitted strategies to become a star, Bassham nails every regular-guy gesture and bone-headed utterance with unwavering authenticity.
Philana Mia doesn’t fare quite as well in her portrayal of Damon, however. She seems hesitant and a bit self-conscious. Though part of her stiffness may be the script, she often feels like a pretty woman reading lines meant for a man.
Director M. Bevin O’Gara has found the perfect pace for a fun, feel-good piece of theater, and Dahlia Al-Habieli’s superb set could have easily been lifted from any Somerville pad, circa 1996.
Playwrights Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers premiered this work at the New York Fringe Festival in 2002, where it won Best in Fringe. The play had a successful Off-Broadway run, making Rolling Stone’s “Hot List” and Time magazine’s “Top Ten Theatrical Events.” Kaling later got her big break playing Kelly Kapoor on “The Office” on NBC.