Antonio Bellis, Tyler Akin, & Magdelen Hartman in Puffs. Photo: Cyndi Powell Chaney
Puffs: Seven increasingly eventful years at a certain school of magic and magic
By Matt Cox
Directed by Zackary Ross
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
For several decades, identifying as Griffyndor, Slytherin, or Ravenclaw has marked significant clues about one’s personality. Indications of your bravery, skill, or intellect, these labels are worn as a badge of honor, and completely understood by nearly everyone regardless of age, gender, or social status. And then there are Hufflepuffs. Clarksville Little Theater’s current offering, Puffs: Seven increasingly eventful years at a certain school of magic and magic, is a light-hearted parody of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Pulling focus from “The Boy Who Lived” to Hufflepuffs, this action-packed comedy shows how heroes come in all forms and proves that Hogwarts is too dangerous for children.
This play leans into the source material and lovingly makes fun of the seven original books and their prequels, one Broadway play, nine movies, and everything related to Harry Potter. Director Zackary Ross and his ensemble of energetic and eager Puffs embrace the comedy and work well as a unit. The fun does not stop in this parody and whether you grew up with the books or barely even know what a Horcrux is, the play is a lot of fun. The Hogwarts school consisting of large, grey arches and long curtains consumes the stage. The theater is adorned with banners, floating candles, and the ever-present Hufflepuff yellow.
Magic spells go wrong as these students learn to use their mystical skills. While Harry and his Gryffindor crew are basically saving the world from He-who-must-not-be-named, another young boy named Wayne from New Mexico finds two unlikely friends and they are treated to their own adventures that mirror the original narrative. Wayne is greeted by Dumbledore (who happens to be mysteriously and conveniently played by two different actors), Snape, and all the rest just as one would expect. Only in this version, the Puffs stay together, and support each other whether they are rooting on the noble Cedric Diggory or running around Hogwarts in a battle reminiscent of Benny Hill. Throughout all the nonsense, Gary Crockett provides a calming presence as he narrates the action. His spot-on British accent only accentuates the charm of Harry Potter’s world.
As a comedic ensemble, Jadawn Ross, Mark Merk, Ava Vanderkolff, Micah Collins, Hannah Vaughn, and Magdalen Hartman work together to bring some great bits as they chime “Hi” or partake in a chant of “We are not a threat!” The group works well with every comedic bit that comes out of the stereotypical Hufflepuff’s very polite yet awkward, deeply caring also-ran characters. Tyler Akin is a noble hero as Cedric Diggory yet his strongest moments come later as he plays the villainous Voldy. Akin is given some very stellar absurd comedic bits and megaphone as Voldy but I would hate to spoil the fun by going into much more detail. Collins elicits laughs with his physical comedy as he runs, screams, and is carried off stage after being frozen. Vanderkolff’s Leanne is well intended yet completely unaware of herself until her rousing inspirational speech near the end of act two. Mark Merk brings an individual spin to familiar performances of Dumbledore, Snape, and Lockhart and uses the costume choices to his advantage. Magdalen Hartman’s appearance as Bippi, the random house elf thrown in at the end of the show, is an adorable reminder that even though a sentimental addition to an already thriving franchise might not make sense, readers will still eat ‘em up.
Finn Matzek is a fine Wayne Hopkins, who yearns to be a hero among his Hufflepuff brethren. He brings just the right amount of wonder and growth to his adventures as his character grows up over the apparent seven years. For every setback Matzek’s Wayne experiences, and there are many, Hannah Vaughn makes hilarious appearances as Harry with statements and re-enactments of scenarios with brooms substituting for his two closest friends. Where Wayne suffers, the same thing just happens to work out for Harry. As Wayne’s cohorts, Goth girl Megan and nerdy Oliver, Arianna Hart, and Antonio Bellis are an odd couple who embrace their fish-out-of-water roles in life. Matzek, Bellis, and Hart play well off each other and bring strong chemistry like that of Watson, Radcliffe, and Grint’s portrayal in the original films.
So whether you roll your eyes, respect or identify as Hufflepuff, it’s clear that these up-and-coming wizards are more than willing to fight the dark forces and save the day. Clarksville Little Theater’s Puffs shows what else was happening at Hogwarts when Harry and his friends attended. And how the so-called other guys ended up being heroes.
Featuring Tyler Akin, Antonio Bellis, Micah Collins, Gary Crockett, Arianna Hart, Magdelen Hartman, Finn Matzek, Mark Merk, Jadawn Ross, Arianna Vanderkolff, & Hannah Vaughn
January 12, 13, 19, & 20 @ 7:30 pm
January 14 & 21 @ 2:00 pm
Clarksville Little Theatre
301 Montgomery Avenue
Clarksville, IN 47129
Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!