Matt and Ben – The Comedic Tale of Two Actors’ Dreams
This Season, going with the theme of “Sometimes I Dream”, Artswest starts with their production of Matt & Ben, an acidic two-person comedy written by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers. The play, directed by Zenaida Rose Smith, is a rather satirical look at the lives of famous American actors, Matt Daemon and Ben Affleck before their rise to stardom, and seek to fulfill their dreams of writing a script, the two discover the real and imaginary troubles of trying to work together. This production was performed for the first time in Seattle on September 7th, at the Artswest Theater in West Seattle. The play originally premiered at New York’s Fringe Festival in 2002 and was the winner of the 2002 Fringe NYC Award.
The set design of this production, Adair Margret, was very well constructed and gave an immense feeling of nostalgia for the 90’s. The Props Master, Cory Southwell, added well to the set. Decorated with an old couch, a beanie bag, and an old brick computer, and with tables littered with trash gave the impression that this was a poorly cared for apartment building in the 90s. The use of lighting was also especially well done. During various imagination sequences, the lighting would alter ever so slightly to give the audience clarity that what they were witnessing was not happening. Then after the sequence was done, the lighting would return to normal. The lighting would also change during scenes that took place in the past, altering to a light blue whenever a “flashback” sequence would happen. The sound design was also well done and helped add to the comedy of various scenes.
The real show-stealers were the performers of the night. The play had some rather unorthodox cast selection as both Matt and Ben, male characters, were both portrayed by women. The actresses in question (Nabilah Ahmed as Matt and Jacquelyn Miedema as Ben) did a phenomenal job at playing the over-the-top, exaggerated versions of the two male actors. They particularly excelled in their physical comedy, which was the highlight of the show for me. The duo perfectly complemented one another, and their performances very much reminded me of comedy routines I’ve seen in the past, such as The Three Stooges or the comedy sketches Monty Python. I do wish that the emotional and serious scenes were treated better, as I felt that they focused too much on comedy that they couldn’t balance the serious scenes well with the funny ones.
While watching the production, I happened to take notice of the audience around me, particularly that most of the people laughing were young adults while much of the older audience was not. I overall enjoyed my experience with Matt & Ben, and would highly recommend this show to young adults with a passion for satirical and over-the-top humor.
Matt & Ben ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, 4711 California Ave SW, Seattle WA 98116. Wed-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 3:00 pm Til Oct. 1. Info: www: artswest.org or (206) 938-0339. Limited Free Street Parking, Take King County Metro Bus 150, then RapidLine C Line bus.