We were invited by the troop at Hi Eugene! Theatre Productions to watch a preview of their production of “Matt & Ben” opening TODAY, Saturday, November 8th, at The Venue Orlando (Mills District, in case you weren’t aware). Having seen their previous production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, I knew one thing was for sure; I was going to laugh. And maybe cry, but mostly laugh like a fool. I was greeted with were three familiar faces, those being Christina Carmona (Ben), Lindsay Taylor (Matt) and of course Devon Lucia, the show’s director. These ladies always seem to have such fun together, and with this piece I’m sure it was no exception. One (not really a) problem… Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are clearly male. I got curious.
Admittedly, I am not a fan of Mindy Kaling, so I was a little skeptical going into this preview based on that alone. (Sorry, Mindy. I just don’t find you that funny but you seem very nice.) Having no prior knowledge of this play going in, other Googling a brief synopsis, I was curious to see how this story of “Hollywood golden boys” Matt Damon and Ben Affleck would unfold… with female leads. And not just that, in this story the script from “Good Will Hunting,” falls ‘mysteriously from the heavens.’ Figuratively and maybe even literally, depending on your point of view.
Tip: I encourage you to arrive early to catch the pre show. Anything else I say about it will be a spoiler. Just… enjoy the nostalgia.
Another tip: Originally, this play was presented with no intermission. In Hi Eugene’s version there is, which is a clever, added bonus for any diehard fan of either. Again, no spoilers but a small hint: A certain person performing at Orlando Improv this weekend *may* be involved.
This play sets up the story of characters “Matt” and “Ben” prior to any big career success. They were lifelong best friends who, for the most part had a fun and funny bromance. Both were struggling to pave a career after their roles in School Ties. Ben, even back when with his leading man good looks, turned more to writing by trying to adapt a screenplay version of “Catcher in the Rye.” Matt on the other hand, the thinker, wished for a really meaty acting role. Lindsay, as “Matt,” definitely sells this desperation in search… and other moments you’ll see. Christina’s “Ben” is very funny, as I can imagine Ben Affleck might actually be in life.
What I really enjoyed about this play was the emphasis on friendship above all. Possibly through the spirit of their previous characters in Dog Sees God, the ladies really drove this point home for me. Behind the scenes, the cast in particular have been presented with huge life challenges this year, including Christina Carmona’s father who has been unwell. I appreciate that Hi Eugene! always manages to give back to the community in some form – in addition to putting on a show. Their last production donated proceeds to UCF’s Bully-Free Florida Network. A portion from “Matt and Ben” will go to The Barber Fund, a grassroots organization which provides assistance to those living with cancer. Well done team!
Last tip: Stay to the end. There’s a neat little bow tie…
About Hi Eugene! Theatre Productions
Created by the Lucia sisters – Devon and Dannon – in 2009 and launched the theatre company in 2013, Hi Eugene! Theatre Productions is a local production company striving to provide community arts and entertainment that have both a heart and a message. Hi Eugene! brings awareness to causes affecting young people today through relevant, poignant and entertaining stage productions. In an effort to raise awareness even offstage, the company hosts fundraising events and charitable outreach programs. If fundraising goals are met, Hi Eugene! donates 100 percent of a specific night’s profits to a pre-determined charity. To learn more about Hi Eugene!, its mission and upcoming productions or to donate and purchase tickets, visit www.HiEugeneTheatreProductions.com.
Hi Eugene! Theatre Productions Presents
Matt & Ben
Written by Mindy Kaling & Brenda Withers
Directed by Devon D. Lucia
November 8 – 9, 2014
7 p.m. (Sat.)
7 p.m. (Sun.)
511 Virginia Dr.
Orlando, FL 32803
“Matt” – Lindsay Taylor
“Ben” – Christina Carmona
Director & Producer – Devon D. Lucia
Assistant Director – Brian Gutierrez
Executive Producer – Dannon Lucia
Graphic Designer – Samantha Sanders
Set Designer and Construction – Adam S. Ressa
Stage Manager – Jordan Irvine
**Matt & Ben has not been authorized or approved in any manner by Matt Damon or Ben Affleck Estate, which have no responsibility for its content. Produced with permission from Samuel French INC.