Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers start off their snarky play Matt & Ben with a slap at themselves over whether imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or a ripoff. Then they go on to spoof Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and their Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, in a story that uses a lot of mirrors, and a puff of smoke here and there.
A onetime New York Fringe Theatre Festival entry, Matt & Ben has been picked up for a twirl by the Mad Cat Theatre troupe. Director Paul Tei and his small cast bring more than enough sass without a hint whatsoever of put-down, to float the premise: Damon and Affleck are scrounging, out-of-work actors desperate enough to try writing a movie adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye for themselves when the Good Will Hunting manuscript literally falls from the heavens.
Damon has won a role in a Sam Shepard play at a small theater in the Boston area but is afraid to tell his partner, fearing Affleck will slide into jealousy and depression. Nor is Damon convinced that their version of Catcher, if it’s ever finished, will find a producer. About that time in a hilarious feat of low-tech special effects, the Hunting script ka-plops out of the Light Box rafters onto the cluttered floor of the bachelors’ pad.
Though Matt & Ben is on the short side even as piffle, it never runs out of steam. Better yet, Tei and company manage to turn the corner from satire to poignant affection for the characters before it’s all over.