With the movie world buzzing about latest superhero film production "Batman vs. Superman," Ben Affleck is back to his usual (and well-deserved) position in the spotlight. For those of us who grew up watching "Good Will Hunting," it's quite the treat to witness one of Boston's own move on to bigger roles in the biz.
But, like every other artist, Affleck had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was in a tiny apartment in Somerville with childhood friend and now-beloved star Matt Damon.
Mindy Kaling--actress from "The Office" and "The Mindy Project"--may not be the first person to wonder how Damon and Affleck went about writing the script for "Good Will Hunting," but she was certainly the first to write a parody of the process alongside Brenda Withers.
In Kaling's and Withers' version of events, while Affleck and Damon are struggling to shape high school reading list staple "The Catcher in the Rye" into a screenplay, the complete script for "Good Will Hunting" literally falls into their laps. The mysterious appearance of their future hit sends the two into a slew of childhood reflections, battles of ego, and back-to-back crises.
The play has since been performed in the place the two actors' journey first began: our small, but charming, city of Boston. Best of all, however, is the fact that both Boston natives are played by women, with Lauren Robinson starring as Damon and Libby Schap as Affleck.
Produced by the LL Production Company, an organization working to promote local female talent, and the Riot Theater, an improv theater in Jamaica Plain, "Matt & Ben" has made its way to the Davis Square Theater.
The theater experience itself was an immense treat and only enhanced an already personable and hilarious performance. Not only is the theater part bar--alcohol is always a bonus when you're trying to have a laugh--but the show is performed in a cozily small room with a floor-level stage.
About half of the audience needs to walk on the stage to get to the exit, which resulted in some hilariously awkward bathroom break attempts. Because of the proximity, watching Ribinson and Schap do their thing felt like being the audience of a '90s sitcom in the best way possible. For those of us currently in college, the single set of Affleck's Chinese-takeout-littered living room is heartwarmingly familiar.
Robinson and Schap pull off Damon and Affleck effortlessly: Damon comes through as obsessively ambitious and Affleck as utterly carefree and a little on the slow side.
Yet, their faults are what make them so real and recognizable as two young people confused and overwhelmed by the process of entering the job market.
The two wrestle for control and lead role of the script given to them by an unknown force, involving one particularly hilarious flashback scene of Affleck stealing Damon's thunder at a talent show.
The performance even slips in a little bit of character-swapping--at one point, Robinson transforms into Gwyneth Paltrow, Affleck's real-life ex-girlfriend.
At times, the repeated bickering in the plot gets a bit tired and predictable, which seems to be more of a script thing than anything else. Yet, Robinson and Schap nailed their characters, down to their body language, inflections, and expressions, and the overall storyline is both incredibly funny and insightful.
If Affleck, Damon, pop culture jokes, and gender-bending aren't incentive enough to check out the show, you can rest easy knowing your money is supporting local talent and businesses working to bring the stars' local roots back into focus.
For more information on future "Matt & Ben" performances, check out the Boston Matt & Ben Facebook page at facebook.com/MBinBoston.