The Elektra Theatre’s warm lobby, eclectic wallpapers, exposed brick and a ceiling full of bronze drop tiles met audience members in attendance at the performance of the Off-Broadway play, “PUFFS, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic.” The performance was one of fantastic energy and hilarity from opening curtain to standing ovation.
Before the narrator could utter his first lines, in front of those closed mustard-colored curtains stood an old overhead projector, the sort which required transparencies in elementary school, featuring the play’s title in an adorably doodled style. There were even announcements from the school faculty which acted to even further bring audience members into this wizarding world. Everything about the set was perfectly designed to immediately create the magic and fun of a world full of just that — magic and fun.
These were just some of the many ways in which the show added memorable, unique touches to something with which everyone was already affectionately familiar. This Harry Potter parody followed the entire chronology of the original series, but from the perspective of an exceptionally unimportant Hufflepuff student named Wayne. This character resembled the Boy Who Lived only in the respect that similar events occurred to each.
Rather than becoming legendary, Wayne instead recedes further and further into aggressive normality. Far from average, however, was Zac Moon’s performance as this character. Moon easily handled Wayne’s personal and emotional arc in the 90-minute span of the production without it feeling like an insincere rush. Alongside Moon were James Fouhey as Cedric Diggory and A.J. Ditty as the Narrator, who were both standouts with their own comedic timing. Their talent, however, in no way dimmed the lights of the other brilliant performers as there were few (if any) moments in which an actor on stage did not capture the attention and affection of the audience.
Throughout “PUFFS,” the performance area was effectively and smartly utilized to the advantage of the storytelling. Props, sound and music, lighting and spell-casting were all tailored to make the most of the space. While naturally the dramatic grandeur of the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” battles could not be replicated on stage, the intense essence of it still came forth.
“PUFFS” situated itself as a comedy first, but allowed for the drama, emotional points and whimsy of the world it parodies to be present, and even utilized those heavier moments as jumping-off points for quips and its own commentary on the original work. However, for those who do not keep a constantly refreshed catalogue of Harry Potter facts and mythos at the ready, some of those jokes or comments will fall flat. But again, the density of the references doesn’t take away from the show. Rather, it creates moments for an audience member to catch their breath after all that laughing.
“PUFFS, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic” officially opens Oct. 20 at The Elektra Theatre at 300 W 43rd St.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 17 print edition. Email Arimeta Diop at [email protected]