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Coming to Echo Theatre in April: Matt & Ben (That's Damon and Affleck) Played by Women

You know Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor on six seasons of the NBC comedy The Office. But did you also know that Kaling won a whole bunch of awards portraying Ben Affleck?

She did, co-starring with Brenda Withers off-Broadway in the play the two women wrote, the comedy Matt & Ben. Dallas theatergoers will get their first look at it in Echo Theatre's "Echo Reads" series on Tuesday, April 17, at the Bath House Cultural Center.

The play requires that Damon and Affleck be portrayed by two actresses, which is just one of its charms. Kaling and Withers wrote the characters as lovable knuckleheads who grow up together in Boston and as young actors and writers keep stumbling into bigger realms of stardom. Their ticket to the Academy Award is their screenplay for Good Will Hunting, which the play shows falling into their laps, neatly wrapped in brown paper, from a hole in the ceiling of their college apartment. Instead of finishing the project they had been working on, a movie adaptation of Catcher in the Rye, the boys look at the new manuscript as a gift from the movie gods. The play then goes into flashbacks from the guys' lives, with Matt singing in a high school talent show, only to be upstaged by Ben. The seeds of their competitiveness are sown early on.

The New York Times called Matt & Ben "deliciously vicious" when it debuted in a tiny theater in the East Village. The play won the New York International Fringe Festival's "Best Play" prize and was featured at the 2003 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. Time magazine named it one of 2003's top 10 theatrical events.

Echo Theatre produces only works by women, but Kelly Thomas, who's directing the staged reading in April, says there are other reasons to do Kaling and Withers' script. "In show business, men have always been in the forefront. Matt and Ben played by women helps tear down the walls of gender inequality in show business and shows us the importance of 'character' rather than 'characters,'" says Thomas.

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The after-show talkback could be a doozy for this one.

Matt & Ben by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers will be performed in a free staged reading by Echo Theatre, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 17, at the Bath House Cultural Center.

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