REVIEW: Miami’s ‘Puffs’ Exceeds Expectations

Under the direction of Lindsey Mercer, Miami’s Puffs team Exceeds Expectations.

By Liz Eichler

The comedy parody Puffs, now at Miami University Theatre, humorously explores the question “What about the other kids who went to Hogwarts when Harry Potter was there?”

Background

Puffs or, Seven Increasingly Eventful Years as A Certain School of Magic and Magic, by Matt Cox, was first performed off-off-Broadway at The People’s Improv Theater  in 2015, after workshopping this take-off on the Harry Potter series. (Puffs is not authorized, sanctioned, licensed or endorsed by J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros. or any person or company associated with the Harry Potter books, films, or play.)  It started out as scrappy improv theatre–shortening the students in “Hufflepuff” House to “Puffs,” and looks at the nice kids, not the snakes, the brave or the smart. Harry is a secondary character in this show.

The play has spread across the country like Fiendfyre. One reason for its success, in addition to the shared mythos of the books or movies, is that there is a solid message behind the humor: you can be the hero of your story. 

Direction

The keys to a successful production of Puffs are rapid fire pacing and delivery, great timing, a myriad of props and costumes–and the backstage staff to help manage all the quick changes. Under the direction of Lindsey Mercer, Miami’s Puffs team Exceeds Expectations.

With a cast of mostly freshman, Mx Mercer captures the pacing. It is a perfect show for the college age cast and audience–who will eat it up (especially the few in the front row who will actually get chocolate–you know why.) For so many new performers, they rise to the challenges of Puffs.

The pace is quick. Except for a few murky moments mid-show, the almost 2-hour show flies. There is so much going on, with the majority of performers playing a number of roles. Get ready for tons of costume changes (the dementors are a crowd favorite). The show utilizes a multi-level set with a cool yellow slide, so timing of physical movement is key, as well as delivery. The team also does a great job throwing in some new bits–refreshing the 10-year old show.

Lessons still to be learned: articulation and projection. When lines are delivered so rapidly, you have to over-enunciate to increase audience understanding of the jokes. (It took about three times to understand the Puffs’ chant “we are not a threat…”).

Cast of PUFFS and Miami University Theatre.
Cast of PUFFS and Miami University Theatre.

Performers

Outstanding performers include some familiar faces on the Miami Stage Tod Fish (J. Finch), Tammy Sannow (Megan) and Nathaniel Ivy (Cedric/Voldy). There are a number of Exceptional new performers including Benjamin Jones (Erinie Mac) and Ryan O’Malley (Wayne). Each of the other performers get a chance to shine–as the carnage builds up in the final year: Alex Urusov, Jonathan Erwin, Megan Murphy, Sophia Canino, Becca Borton, Olivia Cotton, Nick Murray, and Ingrid Spenn. 

Production Team for Puffs

As always, the production values at Miami University Theatre are high. Solid and interesting scenery (Gion DeFrancesco and Mallory Stiles), tons of great costumes and props (Lisa Martin-Stuart and Laura Schonken), spot on lighting–green or otherwise (Ben Trader and Marly Wooster), sound (John Sebastian) and special effects support this show. Kudos to the stage management team, led by Jillian Northern, with Abby Doane, Kendra McGuire and Ella Skolnicki. Kudos to the run crews. 

Overall

Overall, Puffs is for any Harry Potter fans–especially millennials and their parents. Or whoever needs a semester break and a laugh.  The Gen Z students in the audience–a generation removed from full Potter frenzy–had a blast. As Miami’s semester winds down with finals looming like dementors, Puffs should be a requirement. Or, to paraphrase Albus Dumbledore “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light–and see Puffs.

Tickets to Puffs

Puffs runs through May 1-5, 2024 at Miami’s Gates-Abegglen Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online or by contacting the Miami Box Office 513-529-3200.

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