Theater

Puffs @ New World Stages

"Failure is just another form of practice."

April 15, 2018

Holy mother of Ronald Weasley, Puffs is amazing!

That is, if you're a Harry Potter fan.

If you're not a fan, 90% of the play will whoosh past your miserable head like an uncaught snitch and you'll probably doubt the sanity of everyone else in the room. Why did everyone crack up with some Scottish dude came out wearing an enormous blue googly eye? What the fuck is a Dementor? Why did the house of Puffs suddenly matter in the 4th year again?

I feel sorry for you, I truly do. But sit down, stop wingeing, read all 7 books (twice), and go see Puffs again. You'll laugh so hard you might pee your pants (I didn't pee my pants, YOU peed your pants!).

Harry Potter came out when I was 11, perfect timing for the cultural zeitgeist to infiltrate every nook and cranny of my life. Like 11-year olds around the world, I checked the mail every summer for a letter from Hogwarts. I knew all the spells, I read predictions online about the ending (still wish the last word had been "scar"), I knew which house I'd be in, and I could relate to Harry's irritating, unstoppable angst in the fifth book. When the 4th came out I stayed up all night and finished the whole thing. The 7th book only took me 22 hours, and as soon as I finished the epilogue I flipped to the beginning because I couldn't remember a word.

Puffs is written for people exactly like me. Imagine throwing all the trivia from the books, all the trivia from the movies, a cast of improv-trained comedians, and a budget the size of Broadway into a cauldron for 120 minutes of sheer, blissful nerdiness. You'd imagine less than 15% of what this show contained.

We open on a story of “another orphan”, not Harry (and not even Neville, if you're paying attention). His name is Wayne and he lives with his uncle in New Mexico. The Sorting-Paper-Fortune-Teller-Hat puts him in Puffs and thus begins a parallel story to the one we know so well. While Harry and friends (represented by a featureless red mop and a comically large bundle of ropes that might be Hermione's curly hair) have their own adventures, the friends at Puffs reveal a new story that is, ultimately, far more relatable. As the “catch-all” house for everyone who's not brave, smart, or evil (lol), Puffs is set up to deliver a profound message of belonging, failure, friendship, and small acts of heroism.

I myself have finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a Slytherin (the ambitious kind, not the evil kind...I think), but after Puffs I desperately wanted to switch houses. After all, “Why be one thing when you can be everything else?”

The message of the play is obvious a mile off, but still delivered an emotional punch. The Puffs have their own troubles with the Dark Lord, various beloved characters die tragic (if laugh-out-loud-silly) deaths at the hands of a green light curse (“It's that easy??”), and Harry is still the ultimate hero.

But the real joy of being a Puff – and the joy of watching it – is realizing that you're the most important character in your own story. If you fail, it's just another form of practice. And if you die, your friends will name their kids after you. Pretty win-win if you ask me.

The rapid-fire nature of this play ensured that I'll need to come back to catch everything. I can't imagine the complexity of the Stage Manager's notebook to record all the entrances and exits, prop tracking, and costume changes that last literally for seconds. If you're looking for wizard magic you might not find it here, but you will find the smoke and mirrors of incredible creative performance just as convincing.

Image courtesy Puffs website

Cast:
Langston Belton
Madeleine Bundy
Jessie Cannizzaro
Nick Carrillo
Anna Dart
A.J. Ditty
Julie Ann Earls
James Fouhey
Jake Keefe
Andy Miller
Zac Moon
Eleanor Philips
Stephen Stout

Creative:
Matt Cox (Playwright)
Kristin McCarthy Parker (Director)
Brian Hoes (Original Music
Madeleine Bundy (Set, Costume, & Props Designer)
Herrick Goldman (Lighting Designer)
Matt Cox (Sound Designer
KGM Theatrical / Daniel Kuney (General Manager)
TINC Productions / Duncan Northern (Production Manager)
Annie Schroeder (Company Manager)
Kaila Hill (Production Stage Manager)
On the Rialto (Advertising, Marketing, Website)
Jason Styres, CSA (Casting)
Dan Fortune / Fortune Creative (Press Representative)
Marathon Digital (Social Media)

Producers:
Tilted Windmills Theatricals / John Arthur Pinckard & David Carpenter
Stamatios Tom Hiotis
John Paterakis
George Stephanopoulos
Invisible Wall Prouctions
Letter Blue Entertainment
Sally Cade Holmes
Heather Shields
John Albert Harris
Alan Koolik / David Treatman

Associate Producers:
GG Entertainment
Mark & Alison Law
Paul C. Bongiorno
Oliver Baer
Eric Kelhoffer
Stephen Stout & Colin Waitt

Originally produced Off Off Broadway by Stephen Stout and Colin Waitt
Puffs was developed in part during a residency with the University of Florida School of Theater + Dance, Jerry Dickey, School Director

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