Tuesday, June 20, 2023

'Puffs' relates seven years at school of magic


Their classmates challenge (from right) Megan (Michelle Skinner) and Wayne (Will Livingston). 
Photo by Scott Lasky

Matt Cox’s “Puffs,” subtitled “or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” is being staged by Palo Alto Players.

Inspired by the enormously popular Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, it takes place at the same time that Harry is attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in England. However, it’s not Harry’s story. Rather it’s the story of other students, called Puffs.

It features an ensemble cast of 14 mostly young adults. It revolves around three of the students: Wayne (Will Livingston) and his friends Oliver (Nicholas Athari) and Megan (Michelle Skinner). Another major character is the Narrator (Tiffany Nwogu).

During their seven years together, they encounter numerous challenges and dangers.

Harry Potter fans probably will recognize many of the characters and events mentioned. Those who aren’t at familiar with the series might find themselves wondering what’s going on despite a talented, likable cast.

Director Kristin Walter doesn’t help because she allows too much shouting and jumping around. Group hugs get to be old hat.

These factors probably contributed to the reason why several people left during intermission of the reviewed June 18 matinee.

On the other hand, many in the audience seemed to enjoy it, often laughing throughout the performance and cheering loudly at the end.

The purposely gloomy set is by Kevin Davies with lighting by Edward Hunter, sound design by the playwright and costumes by Jenny Garcia. Brian Metolius composed the background music.

According to a PAP statement, the show “is not authorized, sanctioned or endorsed by J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros. or any person or company associated with the Harry Potter books, films or play.”

Running about two and a half hours with an intermission, “Puffs” will continue through July 2 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.


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