ComedyCultNew YorkOff-BroadwayReview

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic – The Elektra Theater, New York

Writer: Matt Cox

Director: Kristin McCarthy Parker

Reviewer: Tim Koch

Not everyone is born a hero, and some wizards come from America. For every hero who’s the center of the story, what happens to the people just off to the side, and maybe a little farther back, who don’t feature heavily in the hero’s story but are their own people with their own hopes and dreams?

While…certain events…are taking place in England in 1991, a different orphaned boy wizard, Wayne (Zac Moon), is raised in the American Southwest. When he finds out that he is both a wizard and going to private school in England, he hopes that will be the start of something special.

Unfortunately for Wayne, another kid seems to be more destined for greatness, and Wayne is sorted into the Puffs (HIIIIIIII!), the most unimportant House at school. Fortunately, he befriends two other Puffs — Oliver (Langston Belton), a fellow American and out-of-his-element math prodigy, and Megan (Julie Ann Earls), a witch desperate to fit into any House other than Puffs.

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic takes its audience through the same seven action-packed years of Harry Potter’s tenure at Hogwarts, but through the lens of Wayne and the other, oft-overlooked Hufflepuff students, whose only hopes for greatness lie in Puffs’ living legend Cedric Diggory (James Fouhey).

Written with extreme love for the Harry Potter franchise, Puffs employs an intimate knowledge of the series to not only hilariously critique and satirize its more ridiculous aspects (for example, what it was like for the students to watch the second Triwizard Tournament challenge), but also to tell a deeper story about the struggle to fit in and the desire to be part of something bigger than oneself.

The excellent cast portrays multiple roles, creating a surprisingly robust world that only gets better as the play progresses. Puffs reminds the audience that great theatre doesn’t need a Broadway budget or star-studded cast to make an impact – clever writing, engaging actors and a solid message unite to create a uniquely funny and surprisingly emotional experience.

While at first glance Puffs may seem geared towards younger audiences, it is unashamedly for Harry Potter’s adult fans. Much like the books, what starts out innocent and charming soon becomes decidedly more adult-themed (and in Puffs’ case, R-rated) as the characters grow and enter their teenage years. A word of warning – this play is extremely referential, and is more rewarding the more familiar one is with the stories and surrounding pop culture of the Harry Potter universe.

Puffs is an often hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking, and completely endearing piece of theatre. For the Harry Potter fan, it is a perfect reminder that there’s a little Hufflepuff in all of us; J-Finch out.

Runs until 30 July 2017

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