“Puffs” parodies world of “Harry Potter” with magic and madness



The Puffs rally together before a final battle against the forces of evil. Armed with nothing but their wands and sub-par magic skills, the group faces an uncertain fate.

(general spoiler warning)

“We are not a threat!” the students cry in desperation as they huddle together like scared, yellow penguins. “Please be our friend!” It’s not a typical protagonist chant: no masses are inspired to rise up and fight true evil; no one feels anything but pity and disappointment. But that’s only natural for side characters you aren’t supposed to care about.

“Puffs,” a parody of the “Harry Potter” series, shifts the spotlight from the titular Gryffindor to the uninteresting and underdeveloped Hufflepuffs (or, as the show calls them, “Puffs”). The show ties close to its roots—which is both a boon and a curse—but it nevertheless provides an entertaining new perspective into the legendary “Harry Potter” universe.

The play follows three main characters, Wayne (junior Ian Hansen), Oliver (junior Sean O’Halloran) and Meagan (sophomore Cleo Blanding), as well as the rest of the Puffs, throughout their “seven increasingly eventful years at a certain School of Magic and Magic.” The Puffs live at the margins of a far more interesting story, but still manage to get up to their own antics while the Braves (what the show calls Gryffindors) do all of the action-packed, plot-dense work.

The set of “Puffs” is incredibly well-crafted and detailed, and the actors take full advantage of every facet. Doors are opened and closed, books are rifled through and Oliver even takes advantage of the blackboard on the left to calculate the arc of a magic spell. (BENJAMIN TYTELL/SAGAMORE STAFF)

Given that the show lasts over two hours and the premise bars any of the characters from actually doing anything interesting, there is quite a bit of milling around—for better and for worse. For better, the cast and characters are dynamic enough in their infinite mediocrity to turn even dull moments into comedy. The Puffs kids have various running gags among them (most notably the joke that everyone hates them because they are all boring and not super bright) that brighten up their scenes and consistently made me laugh.

For worse, very little happens until the end, apart from commentary on known plot points, which seriously harms the pacing of the show. It’s entertaining to be sure, but, without a plot to follow, everything feels sporadic and disconnected in a way that kept me from getting invested in the characters’ stories, no matter how interesting they were.

The plot of “Puffs” wove in and out of the main series’ narrative, and made sure to sprinkle in references and foreshadowing along the way. Perhaps if I had a greater love for the series this aspect of the show would have been more entertaining for me, but a lot of the jokes felt a little clunky as they led up to predictable beats about time necklaces and basilisk victims.

The show found far more success when it used its characters as the starting points of jokes and not as the end of them. Perhaps my favorite part of the play was when the students were trying to guess who the “magic sex-ed” teacher was and sophomore Jesse Waters-Malone sauntered on stage as “A Certain Potions Teacher” (Professor Snape).

Zach Smith (Rafay Ali) chucks a ball at Ernie Mac (Ivy Fawcett) as part of a misguided attempt to teach the Puffs how to play sports. Ernie will be on the floor soon enough, with a ball-shaped dent in his face. The choreography of stunts and magic were spot-on, with every spell and action looking incredibly rehearsed and smooth. (BENJAMIN TYTELL/SAGAMORE STAFF)

As restrictive as the premise was, the actors and tech crew made the most of it. Meagan was a particular highlight, as her arc of slowly accepting her own Puff-iness made her instantly likable and engaging to watch. She and the other leads successfully walked the delicate line between staying memorable and staying unremarkable. Even better, all of the scenes popped because the ensemble put so much liveliness into their background acting, and the tech cues and magic work were executed seamlessly.

What I found to be most impressive, however, is just how much the show commits to what it promises. Wayne and many of his friends die unceremoniously in the final year, which Wayne accurately laments as nameless casualties of “Potter’s battle.” Instead of copping out and turning Wayne into a generic protagonist, the show takes pride in how little the characters it focuses on matter in the context of the books and movies; that is what makes “Puffs” so special.