A Slytherin theatre critic reviews:
PUFFS: OR SEVEN INCREASINGLY EVENTFUL YEARS AT A CERTAIN SCHOOL FOR MAGIC AND MAGIC , the first show of the inaugural season for The Eastern.
I state my house affiliation because as anyone who has even glanced upon the Harry Potter universe knows, the house affiliations are a key component to life at Hogwarts.
Gryffindor’s are brave (and a bit reckless), Ravenclaw’s are intelligent (know it all’s), Slytherin’s are resourceful and determined (there are no negatives to this house), and then there are the sweet, sensitive Hufflepuffs. They’re precious little cinnamon rolls that are friendly, loyal, their common room is in a quaint little basement off by the kitchens, and their mascot is a badger. The students of this humble little house are the main characters in this Harry Potter universe based show now playing through July 21st at the PowPac Community Theatre in Poway.
It begins with Wayne, an orphaned boy who was sent to live with a distant relative after his parent’s death, and whose life changes forever when he hears that magical phrase “you’re a wizard Wayne.” His first day at school Wayne contemplates that with an origin story like that he must be special and destined for something great! That might be true if that kid next to him weren’t the one and only Harry Potter.
As all the new Hufflepuff’s gather in their house common room and each person introduces themselves they get an enthusiastic and sing-song “Hiiiiii!!!” and wave. They’re all nice, fun, happy people who say things like “Badgers are great!,” set lofty goals to place third out of fourth in the House Cup, and who are greeted with a disappointed “ Oh,Puffs” from professors when they arrive for classes. They know who they are; they’re people who love group hugs and chant “we are not a threat, please be our friend” when they feel defenseless.
Like the source material, this show follows three friends; Wayne (Kevin Patrick Lohmann), nerdy Oliver (Kevin Phan), the emo Megan (Sterling Amara), on their adventure through their Hogwarts education. The trio along with the rest of the Hufflepuff crew learn and grow over the seven years of their schooling; full of adventure, triumph, heartbreak, and life lessons. (One of those lessons is that math is useless at Hogwarts, much to the dismay of math prodigy Oliver). Their house does have one superstar student though, Cedric (a hilariously upbeat and sincere Trevor Cruse) who is mentor, inspiration, and the celebrity to them all.
Lohmann as Wayne is excellent in making his frustration and disillusionment relatable as he tries to be someone special, after all who ever aspired to be a side character? Phan and Amara standout as well, as Phan’s Oliver hilariously tries to find a subject at this school he can be excel at, and Amara’s Megan tries to prove she is anything but a Puff. Travis Rynders makes for a magical narrator to keep the story moving along smoothly.
The shows strength comes from its talented ensemble entertainingly switching between roles at a rapid fire pace. Smartly directed by Justin Allen Slagle the show moves along briskly (after all there are seven years to get through) but also takes the time to highlight the more heartfelt moments.
You don’t need to be a Harry Potter expert to enjoy the show, though if you are one you’ll enjoy the nods to the books and movies.
PUFFS is such a feel good, loving, and funny love letter to the Harry Potter universe and fandom that it couldn’t be anyone but Hufflepuff’s to tell this magical story.
PUFFS is playing through July 21st at the PowPac Community Theatre in Poway. For show time and ticket information go to www.theeasternsd.com