- OnStage New York Critic
Following a successful run at the Peoples Improv Theater, the often-underestimated Puffs take center stage in this iteration of the “Harry Potter” universe. Wayne, our unlikely hero (Zac Moon), is an orphan from New Mexico whose parents die in a “chocolate frog accident” and eventually goes off to magic school in England. He forms his version of the Harry, Hermione, and Ron trio with Oxford bound math genius Oliver (Langston Belton) and Megan (Julie Ann Earls), an angsty, would-be Slytherin. Wayne succeeds and fails at making magic despite a certain wizard with glasses and a peculiar scar.
With the help of a sardonic narrator (A.J. Ditty), familiar faces show up occasionally and in unconventional ways to spoof themselves and forward the story line. The variation of the Hedwig theme and addition of forgotten 90’s songs (“Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba) establish a pleasant connection to aspects of popular culture that many audience members experienced just as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was published. The fun of this play comes from the different references to the books and the multi-million-movie franchise such as Cedric Diggory’s death and the Battle of Hogwarts, but characters don’t dare mention them by name. This hilarious cast shows their comedic talents by playing multiple roles and transitioning from one to another in seconds. Kristin McCarthy Parker’s direction allows each cast member to have his/her moment to be silly and assist with the set and props. Ron Weasley is played by a mop. Need I say more?
Although “Harry Potter” only serves as its source material, “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic” is a gift to die-hard fans of the series. To everyone else, review it before seeing the play. There may be details you may overlook if the content isn’t fresh in your mind. I’ll be honest: I didn’t read the series until last year and might’ve missed a detail or two.
“Puffs” does more than celebrate how Hufflepuffs have become a joke in popular culture. It’s an homage to J.K. Rowling and her tales of friendship and adventure that have attracted fans for years. The Puff’s mantra “We are not a threat, please be our friend!” takes on a new meaning to remind theatergoers that it’s not all about being the bravest or smartest wizard—it’s all about compassion.
Photo: Hunter Canning