Subtitled “Seven More and more Eventful Years at a Sure Faculty of Magic and Magic,” Matt Cox’s Puffs is an affectionate spoof of/homage to J.Ok. Rowling’s well-known sequence of fantasy novels. First developed in 2015 as an off-off-Broadway manufacturing, Puffs — now being carried out by the Potomac Playmakers in Hagerstown — focuses on the humorous and extra critical tribulations of members of essentially the most downtrodden Home on the faculty, whose schoolmates consider them as losers.
The play’s off-off-Broadway roots are evident within the manufacturing’s model, which options intentionally dorky dialogue, over-the-top character portraits, and frequent group bodily comedy scenes. To the credit score of Director Anna Lynch, the forged stays dedicated to this model with commendable vitality all through the manufacturing’s five-hour period (no, probably not, because the narrator, Hannah Schreiner, is fast to make clear in her opening monologue).
The plot’s convolutions — far too quite a few to say, as Cox tracks occasions referring to the seven volumes in Rowling’s sequence — are finest left to followers as deeply immersed within the trivia of the Potter universe as, say, attendees at a Star Trek conference is perhaps to the intricacies of the Starship Enterprise and its progeny. Suffice to say, a vocal contingent of such lovers on the opening night time efficiency cherished the main points in Puffs’ tackle the saga, discovering nearly each second hilarious.
The play may be very a lot a well-coordinated ensemble piece, which is its principal energy, however a few of the particular person performances have been noteworthy. Schreiner’s narrator was a knowingly amused information to the proceedings. Certainly one of many actors who performed a number of roles, Christopher Leatherman gave his chortling, evil Darkish Lord within the second act a pleasant distinction to his earnest Cedric within the first act. A persistently annoying Harry Potter (Coleen Cheney) turns up every so often, wielding brooms entertainingly representing two different distinguished Rowling characters.
Stephanie Mull’s Megan — a personality with important mom points — had extra depth than many different characters and wound up being moderately endearing. Her boyfriend, Oliver (Nathaniel Webb), introduced a level-headed presence amidst the general chaos. Marisela Stewart admirably stuffed the script’s slot for ditzy/attractive women. Wayne Hopkins (Nic Sigman), a lad searching for which means whereas coping with the flamable mixture of adolescence and magic faculty, successfully bears the load of not being a hero who has been destined to avoid wasting the world.
Particular recognition also needs to go to Stage Supervisor/Assistant Director Devin Taylor, who not solely saved the difficult equipment of the staging operating easily however is credited with the pleasant props design, highlights of which have been quite a lot of birds of various sizes and colours, lighted wands, and a really giant, very dusty quantity 5 of the saga. She additionally made two temporary appearances on stage, which, for me, have been the funniest moments of the night.
Whereas this system doesn’t identify a sound designer, the sound design was one of the vital satisfying parts of the technical manufacturing. The timing of the quite a few sound cues — tied to traces, actors’ actions, or motion involving props — was exact and, so far as I may inform, flawlessly executed.
The tone of the second act darkens considerably, in tune with the later components of the Potter tales themselves, however the tempo additionally slackens, as monologues (e.g., by a foul-mouthed coach) and extended bits (like Megan’s mom’s repeated incapability to return up some magic phrases and prolonged farce chase and fight scenes) sluggish the momentum. Act 2 additionally contains some effortful makes an attempt to offer deeper which means to what has occurred, as when, towards the top, Wayne wonders learn how to cope with the scenario of being a peripheral character in a narrative that facilities on another person. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Lifeless brilliantly explored that theme lengthy earlier than Harry Potter got here onto the scene.
Puffs is a well-executed and pleasing present that, whereas maybe aimed primarily at Harry Potter followers, has enough theatrical benefit to be loved by audiences typically.
Operating Time: Two hours 20 minutes, together with one intermission.
Puffs, Or: Seven More and more Eventful Years at a Sure Faculty of Magic and Magic performs by way of November 20, 2022, introduced by Potomac Playmakers performing on the Potomac Playmakers Performing Arts Middle, 17303 West Washington Road, Hagerstown MD. Tickets, priced at $18, can be found on-line and on the door.