“Puffs” Is for Harry Potter Fans to Appreciate Hogwarts Students Who Will Not Change the World

Sep 11, 2017 by

Try to imagine what it would be like to be an undistinguished, unremarkable, plain, but decent kid at Hogwarts during the seven years that Harry Potter and his by-now famous cohorts were trolling the hallowed halls of the school and engaging in exploits and escapades that would make them bywords for adventure. Well, imagine no further, because, at New World Stages, muggle lovers of all things Potter can be treated to “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” a laugh-a-minute play with a heart as big as Hermione’s handbag.

Puffs is the nickname for those unfortunate Hogwarts students who are not so fortunate as to be sorted into one of the school’s more exciting houses, such as Gryffindor with its brave, adventurous, daring, and chivalrous residents, including Harry Potter himself; or Slytherin, home to the ambitious, cunning and resourceful; or even Ravenclaw, which though relatively unimportant, still values intelligence, knowledge, and wit.

Instead, Puffs find themselves assigned to Hufflepuff, the house that promotes hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play. In short, a house full of banal, agreeable kids whose motto is “Do what is nice. We are not a threat.”

The hero of “Puffs” is Wayne Hopkins, whose history is itself a parody of Hogwarts’ most famous alumnus. A nerdy kid full of optimism, Wayne arrives at the school at the same time as Harry Potter. Both are orphans. Wayne was raised by an uncle in New Mexico after “a freak chocolate frog accident” claimed his parents. When a notice delivered by owl informs him that he’s a wizard, he’s sent off to magic school in England.

But upon his arrival, Wayne, who is full of hope and enthusiasm and eager to succeed, is placed with all the other well-meaning, loyal outcasts. Together, they form friendships (some of which parallel those forged by their more famous classmates), and try not to get hurt in what is really a very dangerous place “for unsupervised children to be.”

Each year, their animated goal is not to come in fourth in Hogwarts’ competitions, “Third or nothing.” But no matter how hard the Puffs try to earn points for their house, whether in school activities or the tournament for the Inter-House Quidditch Cup, the results of their efforts, especially against you-know-who, are never really in doubt.

In playwright Max Cox’s able hands, “Puffs” manages almost the impossible. Part parody and satire and part separate story of its own, it is unfailingly funny and interesting on its own terms. There are clever tongue-in-cheek references to the Potter movies (“Dumbledore looks different this year”) and heart-tugging moments, such as the play’s portrayal of the students’ Year Four, “The one where Hufflepuffs actually mattered.” There is nothing funny about the tragedy of Hufflepuff Cedric Diggory’s death, which is mourned by audience and Wayne together.

Those expecting special-effects will be disappointed by “Puffs.” Its strengths are charm, wit, slapstick, heart, and optimism. Even muggle parents and grandparents who are not Potter aficionados will enjoy not only the play, but their children’s and grandchildren’s non-stop laughter.

The play runs for almost 100 minutes without an intermission. The show on Mondays and Saturdays at 8pm and on Sundays at 7:30pm employs slightly more risqué language than the show on Sundays at 3pm. New World Stages is located at 340 West 50th Street in Manhattan.

No, Wayne and his housemates will not change or save the world. Unlike their more famous classmates, Puffs were designed by J.K. Rowling to be imperfect and forgettable, essentially secondary characters in Harry Potter’s story. But, despite, or, maybe, because of all that, Mr. Cox’s Puffs are endearing and memorable.


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