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From behind the scenes to center stage

South Philly residents Madison Caudullo (left) and Gianna Lozzi will star in a two-actor show MATT & BEN on Nov.19-21 at the Plex Fitness Academy at 1231 S. Harmony St. (contributed photo).

Madison Caudullo worked up the courage to be in the spotlight. 

She’s come a long way from being a shy pre-teen hiding in the background, while itching to find a bigger role.

It began in middle school, when she caught the acting bug, but settled for working behind the scenes. Then she stepped out of her comfort zone.

“I’m a pretty reserved person,” said Caudullo, who now lives in the Newbold section of South Philly after growing up in the Scranton area. “But I find it much easier to act when I’m told what to say. I had just worked backstage and thought maybe I can be a little more brave. And maybe I can be even braver the next time.”

Now she has nowhere to hide. 

Caudullo will be sharing center stage with Gianna Lozzi in a two-actor show called MATT & BEN by Raw Street Productions. It depicts Hollywood golden boys Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in a scenario when the screenplay for Good Will Hunting drops mysteriously from the heavens, the boys realize they’re being tested by a higher power. 

The two male actors are played by female roles, but Caudullo said they’re not trying to fool the audience with the gender reversals. 

“It’s two women playing men, but in the most heightened sense of the word, in that it’s very obvious that these are still two women and it’s more like a caricature than any specific gender,” Caudullo said.

Although she watched Good Will Hunting several times, she actually sought other ways to create her character. She plays Damon while Lozzi acts as Affleck.

“I’ve been watching a lot of slapstick two-man Laurel and Hardy-type things, to see how to play off each other,” Caudullo said. “Because Matt ends up being the straight man a lot, which is not too much of a switch for me, so I’ve been taking it in that direction.”

The chemistry between Caudullo and Lozzi was formed years ago as the two attended college together at Arcadia University.

“Gianna is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, which is intimidating and also great,” Caudullo said. 

They acted together in previous plays and actually performed these exact roles, as the play had a short run just before the pandemic shut down local theater.

“We had a little mini run,” Caudullo said. “We only did five or six shows as a test. We had been transitioning from larger-cast shows so there was a little bit of hesitancy about whether people would come and see a two-person show.

“As things were starting to get back to normal, we felt like maybe it didn’t get the proper sendoff because things were looking so weird at the end of February and beginning of March (in 2020) right when we closed. We didn’t feel like we mined everything that we could have mined from it the first time.”

The comedy, which is written by Brenda Withers and Mindy Kaling, opened at the Bittersweet Kitchen last weekend in Media and will run Nov. 19-21 at the Plex Fitness Academy at 1231 S. Harmony St. in the Grays Ferry section of South Philly. Tickets can be purchased at https://raw-street-productions.ticketleap.com.

The show promises to be a unique experience between two tight-knit characters played by two tight-knit talented actors.

“It shows you how deep of a friendship you can have with someone,” Caudullo said. “I’ve been thinking about it in terms of forgiveness because they go through a whole 10 years of friendship in the course of a few hours of the show. They are best friends, get into the worst fight in their entire lives. To them, it’s the most important thing that’s ever happened. Everyone has been through a trying year and if these two guys can get through it, things are starting to look up for so many more people.”

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