How do you like them apples?
Matt & Ben
Beyond the Proscenium strikes again with a frenetically funny and thought-provoking take on the process Matt Damon and Ben Affleck may—or may not—have used to write the Oscar-winning screenplay Good Will Hunting. The cluttered Boston apartment in which the young men labored, replete with open bags of Doritos and dirty laundry, we might expect. But divine intervention? Spectral visits from famous people? More than a bit of rivalry, with repressed and not-so-repressed jealousy and long-harbored grudges?
This play by Mindy Kaling (known as “Kelly Kapoor” from the NBC sitcom The Office) and Brenda Withers is, like so many of the best of BTP’s productions, just slightly detached from reality as the rest of us know it. Such suspended reality opens doors and produces quite a few laughs as the play explores questions of friendship, competition, collaboration and authority in the truest sense—do we really “author” anything, even our own lives?
But the real genius in this production is in casting two young women to play two young men—and two very famous young men at that. Carrie Joyner (Ben) and Mayette Villanueva (Matt) don’t look anything like Damon and Affleck (for which they are no doubt grateful), but they pull off the nearly impossible in making the audience forget that that they’re not a pair of guys.
What’s more, Joyner and Villanueva perform this feat subtly, by concentrating on character while letting their bodies take up all the space they can. The “masculine” actions aren’t parody; it’s deft and light, with a realistic touch. The two also shift gears for a couple of surprises that mark the play as a sort of hyper-reality, but the real pleasure is watching them make the audience forget that they’re acting.
For the celebrity watchers, there are plenty of jokes at the expense of Damon and Affleck’s dating and tabloid shenanigans, as well as a few shots at Affleck’s little brother, Casey. But the real fun here is watching as the arc of two careers is set in a grungy living room over cheap pizza.