Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers' off-Broadway hit Matt & Ben is having its Florida premiere in a Mad Cat Theatre production at the Light Box, directed by Paul Tei. It's cute. It's a loopy fantasy about talent, male bonding, and fame, based on the real-life story of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's overnight rise to stardom as they won the Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting in 1997. How did these two first-time screenwriters, out of the blue, come up with this megahit? Young, hot, and incredibly lucky, the two became instant tabloid fodder and the stuff of dreams. Matt & Ben was also was written by two buddies, though in this case, two young women, who also played Matt and Ben in drag in the original production, earning themselves and their play high praise at the 2002 New York Fringe Festival. Mad Cat's production has Michelle Goyette playing Matt and Ivonne Azurdia as Ben, but it adds an extra actor to play goofy cameos of J.D. Salinger and Gwyneth Paltrow that were originally performed by the authors. It's a lazy decision, but it's justified by Joe Kimble's shameless, clever performance. The comedy has the feel of a drama-class improvisation not fully worked out, but Tai's production makes it enjoyable and almost touching by the end. Still, there's not much here: Matt & Ben lasts about 80 minutes, and it's funny for about 40. It would have been a terrific skit on Saturday Night Live or Mad TV. Tai keeps the cast moving and moving fast. That the show bogs down before it's over is nobody's fault but the writers'. (Through August 6 at Mad Cat Theatre at the Light Box, 3000 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Call 305-576-6377.)
Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown: The good news here is that Guillermo Reyes is a major voice in Hispanic and gay theater and that his 1994 comedy, Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown, is nothing short of brilliant. The really bad news, however, is that the amateur show of the same name that Edge Theatre is putting on at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens doesn't do the playwright or his potential audience any favors. It is an incompetently directed, slow, and dull affair with a cast that -- with the exception of Andrio Chavarro -- is just not up to the demands of the script. (Through July 31 at the Edge Theatre at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, 2000 Convention Center Rd., Miami Beach. Call 786-355-0976.)
In his engagingly cute Modern Orthodox, playwright Daniel Goldfarb brings culture clash to temple with a battle between Orthodox Jews and their liberal, Reformed Jew opposites. Yuppie Manhattan financier Ben and his doctor girlfriend, Hannah, may have met their match, though, in young Hasidic diamond merchant Hershel. Hershel, who looks like a Hasidic Beastie Boy, sells Ben an engagement ring and then weasels his way into the couple's apartment while he looks for a suitable bride. As Hershel searches, he berates the frazzled Ben and Hannah for their slackness of religion until they surreptitiously place an online personals ad that connects him with quirky but Orthodox Rachel. The production's comedic timing is on, although that doesn't always save the play from its muddled plot. Starring Benim Foster, Jason Schuchman, Rachel Jones, and Margery Lowe. (Through July 31 at Caldwell Theatre Company, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. Call 561-241-7432.)
Sisters of Swing: The Andrews Sisters, who rose to megastardom during the World War II Big Band era, were the Dixie Chicks of their time. During their long career, the three recorded more than 700 songs and sold more than 90 million records. Getting behind the home-front-girl iconography is the musical's well-realized intention. Among the production's many surprises -- besides an excellent supporting six-piece band, a retro Big Band orchestra set, and clever musical arrangements -- is the ambitious legwork of the play's two male costar Everymen. Whatever energy created the Andrews Sisters phenomenon is also rabidly contagious. The talented cast and crew of this play have caught that energy and are having as much fun giving good show as the real Andrews Sisters certainly had. (Through August 28 at the Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan. Call 561-585-3433.)
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