Matt and Ben Plays with Gender Stereotypes

Matt & Ben is the story of how two childhood friends – Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – write the screenplay for Good Will Hunting, which eventually helps the two become the stars they are today. While one wouldn’t expect this process to be smooth, it certainly doesn’t help when the perfectly written screenplay is falls directly from God to your lap. What could become a quick ticket to fame, money and a girlfriend turns into a moral dilemma – is it still stealing if it falls into your lap with your name written on it?

I was immediately drawn to this production when I saw Sarah Van Tassel (Artistic Director at The Walterdale, Director of Reasons to be Pretty) was involved. What’s most interesting about Matt & Ben is that the two main characters are played by women – Sarah Van Tassel (Ben) and Lindsey Walker (Matt). Seeing the two women adapt “stereotypical” male mannerisms – of speech and physical movement definitely sparked some thoughts of my own about gender stereotypes and representation. In particular, the discord between Van Tassel’s soprano voice, while she’s physically fighting with Walker took me out of the moment, thinking, “wait, this doesn’t feel right” – as if it’s not “proper” for two women to throw punches at each other. Outside of the play, if you were to ask me, “is it okay for females to physically fight?” I’d say “sure” (while simultaneously not endorsing violence of any kind because I’m not a big fan of fist-fights). The reason this worked was Van Tassel and Walker did a great job of adopting these stereotypes without making them seem overdone – no outrageously low voices (except where appropriate) or over-the-top macho-man actions.

While my mental exploration of the gender stereotypes presented in Matt & Ben was interesting, I thought the “flashback” scenes could have been improved (admittedly, I saw it on opening night and am sure this will be fixed up by the August 17 performance). Enter the theatre knowing there are “flashbacks” in the plot – be prepared for these, and try not to confuse them with the present plot line. The flashbacks in the August 16 performance often weren’t accompanied by a cue (lighting, aural, dialogue) that indicated the scene was taking place in the past. The audience catches up quickly enough, but it took me out of the moment for a second or two.

See it: if you like examining gender stereotypes, studying gender in popular culture, or like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

Tickets are $12.50, or $10 for seniors and students. Matt & Ben runs for 65 minutes. Remaining shows are: August 17, 20,23, 24,and 25. Matt & Ben’s schedule can be found on the Fringe Theatre Adventures website or YEGLive.ca.

– Jenna Marynowski

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