Review: The Puffs at The Peoples Improv Theater
A young boy raised by his uncle wanders through a strange world to learn all about magic. No, not him. Humble and with a heart as golden as his scarf, the boy’s name is Wayne, and this is a story about him – and the other guys. It’s a story about the House at that school of magic — the one that rarely enjoyed the spotlight but always enjoyed the best snacks. Really, who wouldn’t want to sleep next to the kitchens? I know I wasn’t about to walk up all those stairs.
Now playing at The Peoples Improv Theater in New York (a.k.a. The PIT), The Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic is a loving, adult parody from writer Matt Cox, director Kristin McCarthy Parker, and producers Stephen Stout and Colin Waitt. The play offers a look at all seven of those years from the point of view of the Puffs – and Jesus Merlin Christ, this show was terrific.
They may not have been the bravest, the sneakiest, or even the smartest. But the Puffs are a loyal and colorful bunch just trying to make it through to win the House Cup. Or you know, just not come in last place. Third or nothing!
I’ve seen one other show at The PIT, a Jurassic Park-themed comedy entitled Hold On To Your Butts from McCarthy Parker and the gang over at Recent Cutbacks. They were able to tackle my favorite movie of all time and make me cry in my seat from laughter. Could lightning strike twice when The PIT hosted a parody of my favorite book series?
Not only did it strike, it left a lightning-shaped scar somewhere around the point of Stephen Stout’s spot-on impression of our favorite potions professor, which is delivered during a sex talk involving a doughnut.
The main Puffs trio consists of Wayne (Zac Moon, who wonderfully captures Wayne’s heart); angry, probably-should’ve-been-a-Slytherin Megan (Julie Ann Earls); and math-loving, most-likely-to-guest-star-on-Numb3rs Oliver (Langston Belton). Wayne, Megan, and Oliver bond over their magical skills – or lack thereof – and use AIM screen names that seem perfectly suited for Pottermore 1.0.
The ensemble cast takes the setup’s bare-bones format (a red mop is Ron Weasley) and runs with it, delivering a laugh-out-loud production perfect for any fan of this magical world.
As our engaging narrator, A.J. Ditty guides us through all seven increasingly eventful years. He rolls his R’s with enough passion and flourish that any narration you hear in the future will sound mundane and mediocre. He is a joy to hear and to watch as he interacts with the audience and takes us through the story.
Meanwhile, tongue-in-cheek jokes and references to the wildly popular books and movies (“Dumbledore, you look different!”) remind us why the Puffs were a great bunch. Herbology! And badgers. Badgers are great.
Rounding out the cast are Nick Carillo, Madeleine Bundy, Jessie Cannizzaro, Andy Miller, and Eleanor Philips, who each show off their talents in a Jimmy Fallon-esque showcase of magical impressions while simultaneously partying to Chumbawumba. And we can’t forget the most famous Puff of them all: Cedric Diggory. With plenty of charm and abs for days, actor Evan Maltby oozes charisma in the lead-up to Cedric’s glory days in “Year 4: The Puffs and the Year They Mattered.”
I’m sitting here trying to think of any negative things to bring up – any cons to balance out this long list of pros. A review should never be biased, after all.
Following much deep thought, I can only come up with this: When I saw Hold On To Your Butts, I left wanting more, because an hour of dinosaurs and Goldblum just didn’t seem like enough. With The Puffs, I left not feeling at all cheated – the 90-ish minutes were a perfect fit. (However, if you’re thinking of bringing your kids, don’t. This show is NSFW in the best way possible.)
Oh, well. I guess a glowing review isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes, magic just happens.
The Puffs is currently playing at The PIT and has been extended through May. For a list of upcoming performances, please visit The Peoples Improv Theater.