Review of “Puffs”
One does not need to know every detail about Harry Potter to enjoy this delightful spoof, entitled Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic. 40 young people will be bringing this to life this weekend at Prana. This zany play has characters both good and evil running on and off stage at, of course, a castle in England. Therefore British accents are called for. The three narrators, Victoria Edwards, Claire Nielsen, and Rosie Foley, excel at speaking the Queen’s English, as they so well explain the story. They hold up a book with the year as we travel through seven dizzying seasons.
Wayne, played quite well by Nicholas DiPippo,is at the center of the action here. An orphan, he is plucked from his home with his uncle Dave (Ryan Klimecko) in New Mexico and told in one minute that he is a wizard, that his parents were wizards, and that they are driving to the airport immediately to go to a boarding school (that is NOT Hogwarts). Here he meets his two best friends to be. Oliver, finely played by Emmet Doherty, becomes his true companion as they try to navigate their way through their new reality. Megan, played with a delicious sense of bratiness and evil by Lauren Conder, is eventually convinced to befriend them, and many group hugs appear. They are told by the iconic sorting hat that they are not Brave, Smart, or Snake, but Puffs. Their apparent hero, Cedric, (Nolan Doherty) nobly explains that the Puffs need not to study hard but to concentrate on winning the valued House Cup.
Their professors appear for classes that last only a minute or two. They are spoofed as terrible teachers, yelling at the classes and calling them stupid. (Lilah Armitage, Bella Abasciano, Gwen Rosen, Alivia Romano, Andy Heller and Maggie Mulik.) Gwen Rosen as the potions professor projected particularly well and had a spot-on British accent. A character who is called Harry, with the trademark owllike glasses, (Caroline Mulik), also speaks the Queen’s English convincingly. He and his sidekick pop on and off stage, providing comic relief from all the screaming and terror. Harry often talks to a red mop, who is amusingly supposed to be Ron Weasley. The Puffs, the team that realistically only aspires to come in third in anything, and often chants “We are not a threat; please be our friends” is made up of satisfyingly meek but wacky characters. In the first half of the play, Hannah, Leanne, Susie, Sally, and Ernie Mac are played by Camilla Barry, Izzy Jones, Bella DiPippo, Brie Horton and Arwen Paul. In the second half, they are played by Neve Ronstadt, Gabri Boucher, Kaitlyn Hoffey, Brooke O’Neill and Kendall Hanlon. J Finch, played humorously by Timothy Conder, refers to himself always as J Finch.
The dark side is well represented by Xavia Jones, Megan’s mother (Radhica Kaushik.) Liam McDonough, who both as a d.j. at the school dance and as Voldy, the Dark Lord himself, not only pronounced his lines clearly and with great vigor, but he also became a true villain, cruel, frightening and dastardly enough to fill the shoes of the great Voldemort (in the Harry Potter books.) Here, however, he is “ he who MUST be named in the cast list.” Especially good in her role as the second headmaster is Lexi Chek, who conveys a solemn authority, in a witch’s black hat and velvet robe, with an excellent British accent. In poking fun at the Harry Potter movies and books, this play switches from screaming fear to a spoof of the sport Quiditch to happy encounters on a dime. Owls fly in, and flop to the floor, dead. Love, it turns out, is the real magic.
Having reviewed Roberta Weiner’s Prana’s plays for years, I see students who once had small parts now commanding the stage as they get older, and then becoming backstage older teen staff. What a wonderful gift this program continues to be for the community of Holliston.