BWW Review: PUFFS at IMPRINT Theatreworks
There's something wonderful in the air at the regional premiere of PUFFS by Matt Cox. It may be the smell of fresh butter beer but the new play presented by IMPRINT Theatreworks is intoxicatingly funny. You can experience the magic for yourself at Stomping Ground Comedy January 9th through January 25th.
If you've ever wondered about what the other wizards of A Certain School of Magic were up to during the magical seven book Harry Potter series then PUFFS is the play for you! Follow the Puffs, a lovable gang of misfits, as they find their way to acceptance and home within their assigned house. There's sorting hats and snogging and everything in between! PUFFS takes you on a familiar adventure with newer, funnier characters. As a Potterphile I jumped at the opportunity to nerd out with other fellow mug borns and I was not disappointed. During the entirety of the 110ish minutes I enjoyed every raunchy joke and punchy pun.
Directors Kyle Igneczi and Ashley H. White knew exactly what they were doing when they cast the Puffs and it's apparent during the entire show. Every cast member is committed to being true to their inner-Puff and because of it the laughs from the audience are explosive and often. There were times that I looked around at the audience and could visibly see a vast majority of people grinning from ear to ear. Yet, it was also very apparent as to who wasn't as pleased by the Puffs. If I were one of the people in this world who had never cared to read nor see any of the Harry Potter books or movies then I wouldn't have been pleased either. Much of the storyline sped through each book and referenced to both medias and left little room for the non-Potterphile to catch up or understand what was so funny. PUFFS is very much a love letter in the form of a giant inside joke and IMPRINT may find difficulty in reaching non-HP loving fans because of it.
Fortunately for me, I'm well versed in the wizarding world and left the theater pleasantly surprised. Expect just enough theatre magic to help you escape into the "not-so-adventurous" lives of the Puffs. This show is down and dirty theater that let's you see the many strings the cast must pull to keep the magic alive. There's heavy prop usage and what I imagine is hundreds of costume changes as each ensemble member plays various roles throughout the show. The actors don't wear any mics and it's hardly noticeable since the cast does a great job of projecting in the space. There were a few moments when I couldn't quite hear someone speaking and it was only because my seat was rather close to one of the speakers and they would be drowned out by a sound cue.
The cast itself was full of comedy all-stars. Billy Betsill who played J. Finch had me leaning in any time he exited as a Puff to hear his hilarious in-character improvisations. Juliette Talley had me joyously shaking my head at Leann's loving naïveté. Edna Gill's interpretation of Mr. Potter himself was pleasantly carefree and ridiculous. Madeleine Morris who played the Narrator was the perfect fit for moving the storyline along while also joining in on the Puff shenanigans. But at the end of the day Taylor Staniforth was the reason I was inappropriately cackling behind some random family. Her interpretation of the many professors at A Certain School of Magic had me guffawing with every costume change. (My personal favorite was the Professor With Cat Ears and the school's Headmaster.) Her comedy skills were precise and each character she portrayed was distinct and immediately recognizable. A true comedic talent! The rest of the comedic cast includes: Micah JL Brooks, Savannah Elayyach, Alli Franken, Damian Gomez, Nick Haley, Aaron White and Mark Oristano.
Upon entering the theater you realize that a very minimal set design by Ashley H. White and Aaron White accommodates the small space. The in-the-round design is curtained off to create an intimate and spirited school atmosphere that lets you choose seating in whichever house you want to be a part of. Now if I could use a time turner and choose again I'd sit with the Braves or Snakes. The in-the-round setup provides four seating areas that are decorated to match each of the magical houses: Brave (red), Smart (blue), Snake (green) and Puff (yellow). I sat in the Puff section and ironically enough it may have not been the best place to sit during the show. There were a couple instances throughout the night that I missed chunks of scenes of visual jokes due to my seat location. Post-show I realized that the audience members sitting in the red and green sections seemed to have the most optimal viewing spots in the house. I'd recommend sitting in those sections for anyone wanting to get the best seat for this particular show.
After perusing the PUFFS playbill it's evident that Artistic Director, Ashley H. White, has proven to be a champion on the PUFFS production team and IMPRINT staff. White not only directed along with Kyle Igneczi but was a part of the scenic design team and the Fight & Intimacy Director. Every kiss and "Avada Kedabra" was expertly choreographed to continue the story telling through the actors' physicality whether violent or intimate and it was refreshing to see actors being comfortably intimate onstage. Brava to IMPRINT for recognizing the need for such an important part of the production team.
Ultimately, PUFFS was the perfect choice to open up IMPRINT's third season, Home. PUFFS is a heartwarming look into the lives of a gangly group of kids who discover that home is where the belly laughs and butter beer are. A nice magical reminder amidst a world of seemingly constant chaos. Welcome to the third season of IMPRINT Theatreworks. Welcome home PUFFS!
PUFFS by Matt Cox presented by IMPRINT Theatreworks runs January 9th through January 26th at Stomping Ground Comedy. 1350 Manufacturing St. #109 Dallas, TX 75207. Tickets can be purchased at www.imprinttheatreworks.org.