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Genderbent play portrays origins of Good Will Hunting

By Rachel Woodward, May 21 2015 —

Everyone has wondered what kind of bromance Matt Damon and Ben Affleck struck up while writing their classic 1997 drama Good Will Hunting. Theatre Transit now presents that story as the play Matt & Ben, running from May 28–June 6.

Matt & Ben is showing at the Arts Common building downtown from May 28–June 6. // Thivierr

Matt & Ben is showing at the Arts Common building downtown from May 28–June 6. // Thivierr

The play, originally written by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers, follows Damon and Affleck as they write their breakthrough screenplay. Theatre Transit’s Artistic Director Valmai Goggin is directing the adaptation.

Theatre Transit’s artistic producer Carly McKee says this production goes beyond the relationship of two men and offers insight into the nature of collaboration.

“There is a real relationship,” McKee says. “Because the conversations and arguments Matt and Ben have in the play are arguments that I’ve had with myself and arguments that I’ve had with my collaborators and other people. It isn’t just a play about two movie stars writing a film.”

Just as in the original production of Matt & Ben, both Damon and Affleck are portrayed by women. Alongside her role as Theatre Transit’s artistic producer, McKee stars as Ben Affleck in the production. She says portraying a male role doesn’t change the way she approaches acting.

“It’s not even about embodying the male traits of this character, it’s about playing a character that happens to be male. You figure out their person, and the rest sort of comes,” she says. “They are best friends and I think it comes out of that. That’s not a gender-specific thing. They are best friends just the way that anyone is best friends.”

Matt & Ben will be performed in the Motel Theatre, a small unadorned performance space located in the Arts Commons building near Olympic Plaza.

McKee says this is the most elaborate set they’ve brought to the theatre. Set designer Julia Wasilewski set the black box theatre as an apartment replica in order to give the script an authentic backdrop.

The play also criticizes the cutthroat nature of the film industry. While Damon and Affleck are now widely recognized actors, the two were relatively unknown until Good Will Hunting was released.

Kaling, known mainly for her work on The Mindy Project and The Office, owes much of her success to writing this play with Brenda Withers. Kaling was working as a stand-up comedian in New York City when Matt & Ben debuted in an off-broadway production. The play has been a fringe favourite ever since.

Note: The original version of this story mistakenly claimed that Carly McKee directed Matt & Ben, and wrongly said that the set was the most elaborate ever brought to the theatre. We apologize to our readers for these errors.

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