‘Puffs’ spoofs ‘Harry Potter’ and delights its followers, at Potomac Playmakers

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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 probably 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 fashion, 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 fashion with commendable vitality all through the manufacturing’s five-hour length (no, not likely, because the narrator, Hannah Schreiner, is fast to make clear in her opening monologue).

LEFT: Hannah Schreiner; RIGHT: Stephanie Mull, Nic Sigman, and Nathaniel Webb in ‘Puffs.’ Pictures by Devin Dietrich.

The plot’s convolutions — far too quite a few to say, as Cox tracks occasions regarding the seven volumes in Rowling’s sequence — are finest left to followers as deeply immersed within the trivialities of the Potter universe as, say, attendees at a Star Trek conference is likely to be 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 small print 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 power, however a number of the particular person performances had been noteworthy. Schreiner’s narrator was a knowingly amused information to the proceedings. Considered 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 constantly annoying Harry Potter (Colleen Cheney) turns up sometimes, wielding brooms entertainingly representing two different outstanding Rowling characters.

Stephanie Mull’s Megan — a personality with vital mom points — had extra depth than many different characters and wound up being somewhat endearing. Her boyfriend, Oliver (Nathaniel Webb), introduced a level-headed presence amidst the general chaos. Marisela Siebert admirably crammed 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 save lots of the world.

Nathaniel Webb, Andrew King, Sheri Stewart, Caitlin Cutright, Christopher Leatherman, Colleen Cheney, Yuwa Love, Marisela Siebert, and Kyle Tirak in ‘Puffs.’ Photograph by Devin Dietrich.

Particular recognition must also go to Stage Supervisor/Assistant Director Devin Taylor, who not solely stored the sophisticated equipment of the staging working easily however is credited with the pleasant props design, highlights of which had been quite a lot of birds of various sizes and colours, lighted wands, and a really massive, very dusty quantity 5 of the saga. She additionally made two transient appearances on stage, which, for me, had been the funniest moments of the night.

Whereas this system doesn’t identify a sound designer, the sound design was one of the satisfying parts of the technical manufacturing. The timing of the quite a few sound cues — tied to strains, actors’ actions, or motion involving props — was exact and, so far as I might 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 lack of ability to come back up some magic phrases and prolonged farce chase and fight scenes) gradual the momentum. Act 2 additionally contains some effortful makes an attempt to offer deeper which means to what has occurred, as when, towards the tip, Wayne wonders the right way 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 advantage to be loved by audiences usually.

Working 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 November 20, 2022, introduced by Potomac Playmakers performing on the Potomac Playmakers Performing Arts Middle, 17303 West Washington Avenue, Hagerstown MD. Tickets, priced at $18, can be found on-line and on the door.

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