By Liz Lombardi
We hear about the hero. Theirs is the story that always gets told, regardless if they live or die. But what about the other players in the story? The many other characters, secondary to the hero, who are the focal point of their own story even if they don’t feel that way.
That’s the tale being told at Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic. Wayne is a boy whose parents died shortly after he was born. He is whisked away to live with his uncle in New Mexico with an average life. In 1991, on his 11th birthday, Wayne receives an owl informing him that he is actually a wizard and that he should report to England to start school in a magical castle.
Upon arrival, every student gets sorted into a house: Brave, Smart, Snake, or Puff. Our main character, Wayne, of course gets sorted into the Puff house where he meets the rest of his first-year class, as well as a popular third year, Cedric (yes, that Cedric). The Puffs are uniquely un-unique, the so-called nerdy cast-offs, each with his or her own personality and loveable quirks. He befriends Oliver, a genius mugborn who was supposed to start very early at Oxford until he found out he was a wizard, and unfortunately for him, not very good at magic. Together they work on breaking down the tough exterior of Megan, a Puff who would much rather follow in her mother’s footsteps and be badass enough to end up in WizPrison.
In 90-ish minutes we are taken through the next seven years of their life (with an obligatory ending glimpse into the future). The bonds of friendship translate across any story. So while the actions of our Puffs may be different than what you’re accustomed to, the way they grow during the crazy events of the seven years links them to their more famous counterparts.
“Harry Potter” fans will appreciate the many references to the films and novels that both poke fun at, and remind you of why you love the series so much. Matt Cox stays true to the original plot and to the new characters, providing a fun, energetic retelling of a story we think we already know.
The simple set created by Liz Blessing and Madeleine Bundy exemplifies the homey aspect that the Puffs possess. The floating candles over the audience were the perfect touch to bring us into the show as students. The sound and music, designed by Matt Cox and Brian Hoes respectfully, adds the right touches at the right times, from variations of the Hedwig Theme to haunting effects to pop-culture songs that fit the moment. The lighting, designed by Michelle Kelleher, complements each scene, be it magical or muggle-based.
Director Kristin McCarthy Parker has created a show that utilizes great comedic timing. Her cast is the perfect ensemble, with each of the actors playing multiple characters, resulting in many, many moments to capture a laugh from the audience. Madeleine Bundy, who is also in the show, has picked costumes for everyone that fits each character’s personality and allowed for easy transitions between characters, especially for those who play multiple roles within seconds.
Puffs takes a well-known story and flips it on its head. We learn that life is not about being the bravest or the smartest or the best overall, but being the best that you personally can be. A contribution or sacrifice is still significant, even if no one but your closest friends notice. In an age where millennials seem to be doing it all by age 25, it’s nice to be reminded that it’s okay just be yourself, even if that means being ordinary.
This play will want to make you go back and re-read the novels and re-watch the films to relive the story yet again, this time keeping an eye out for the endearing Puffs.
Puffs is playing at the Elektra Theatre on West 43rd Street, after a run at the People’s Improv Theatre. Show times are Thursdays at 7:30PM and Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30PM, with some exceptions, so be sure to check the website at puffstheplay.com.