Matt and Ben

Being my first Fringe show for the year, I guess I had high expectations. Really, I was just excited about being back in this den of debauchery, seeing great performances.

Also, being the VH1 aficionado and pop culture fiend that I am, this show intrigued me. It also intrigued me that this was the same company last year that put on tape – while they were still in high school. Holy shit. I didn’t see their production last year, but being familiar with the movie adaptation of the play, I would have been terrified of the subject matter when I was in high school. One thing’s for sure, these young Fringers don’t play around.

Show: Matt and Ben
Company: Penguin Point Productions - Winter Park, FL
Venue: pink (Orlando Shakes)
Times: 5/18 - 9:10PM, 5/20 - 11:00AM, 5/21 - 9:40PM, 5/22 - 7:40PM, 5/24 - 5:30PM, 5/25 - 8:35PM, 5/27 - 12:25PM
Tickets: $10

This time around, the subject matter is decidedly lighter. Thinking about it, they mess with your head a little in the sense of a show about actors playing actors, but nonetheless, it’s quite palatable faire. It seemed a little out of date to wax nostalgic over the long lost days of the best buddy-ship of Affleck and Damon, but nonetheless, the players of Penguin Point put on a show worth watching. On their opening night, things were a little shaky. They still needed to get used to some of their lines (and it’s a whole lot of dialogue in its 90 minutes run time), the tech could use some work, and their set seemed to be working against them. That made for some of my favorite parts of the show though. The two actors were more comfortable than ever while improving amidst the mishaps, and the television set provided some of the most laughs of the show.

As for the show itself, it’s quite intriguing, and those who can’t resist at least reading tabloid headlines as they pass by in the grocery line will love this. This show, the brainchild of Mindy (also known as the Indian girl from NBC’s The Office and The 40-Year Old Virgin, who I want to see more of everywhere) and someone else, recounts an imagined (or maybe not so much) story of a struggling BFF team on whose doorstep a brilliant script falls – that of Good Will Hunting, with the boys’ names already on it. Damon and Affleck deal with their sky-fallen good fortune in a variety of ways before choosing to accept their fate and put together the film. Dead on in the subject matter, right down to an Oscar acceptance speech thanking Cuba Gooding Jr., the script it a great laugh. My favorite scene was a reading of one of the more poignant scenes of Good Will Hunting, with Damon of course as a forceful Will and Affleck faking a British accent to be Skylar. The two actors read the scene of the script (how meta!), Damon slams the door, returning soon to laugh it up with his buddy as they nod their heads and say, “That’s so good!”

This show won’t rock your world, but it’s one worth seeing. The script is a proven entity and the set in itself is a wonder to look at. Penguin Point put enormous effort into their set design, increasing the show’s comedic appeal with the dingy room décor and the actor’s “notes”. The actors are energetic and have good chemistry as well, and the Damon impersonator is a near dead-ringer. Affleck’s supposed doppelganger doesn’t quite match the classic All-American Affleck charm and square-jawed good looks, but who does? Any actor (at least a straight one) who looked like Ben Affleck wouldn’t be appearing at the Orlando Fringe. I hope these boys keep coming out with such detailed and well-produced shows. We’ll be the better for it too, when we say we saw them get their feet wet. Every young TJ Dawe has to start somewhere, and these kids are well on their way.

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