Since its initial run at the Peoples Improv Theater, PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic has hopped from The Elektra Theater to New World Stages, where it currently resides, and its popularity has only climbed, achieving international attention and excellent reviews.

Thankfully, for those viewers who might not have access to the New York City theater scene, PUFFS can now be viewed by anyone around the world. The play, filmed live, is available to stream (and download!) on BroadwayHD, iTunes, and Amazon as of November 22nd.

Written for Peoples Improv Theater, playwright Matt Cox and his original production team, director Kristin McCarthy Parker, Stephen Stout (who plays Ernie Mac), and Colin Waitt brought PUFFS to life in 2015.

I first saw PUFFS at The Elektra Theater in October of 2016. My review from that performance of PUFFS may be found here and will give you plot and production particulars; a second chance to review is an opportunity to reflect on how well PUFFS holds up (very), and how it has changed—or how society has changed around it.

I got the chance to speak with Cox (a Puff, naturally) and Parker (a self-professed Smart) about the show’s run, rising popularity, and film release. Cox is still getting used to the idea of his play outgrowing the theater: “When you said you watched the show this morning, I was like ‘HOW?...Oh yeah!’”

They are well aware of how the reception of PUFFS has changed since it first opened. “Aspects of the show certainly took different meaning as various darker parts of our own world started to show themselves,”Cox observed.

Two weeks after I saw PUFFS at The Elektra, America got a new President. Two years later, we’re still reeling from the fallout.

It’s a common Twitter in-joke that Potter fans who draw constant comparisons between the burgeoning fascism in America and elsewhere to Voldemort’s rise should “READ ANOTHER BOOK”…but the parallels can’t be denied.

“We noticed it almost immediately after the 2016 election,” Parker recalled. “[Lines like] ‘Who would have thought the people in the hoods and the masks would be so in the wrong?’ got a completely different response post-election and in the ensuing months than it did prior to.”

Parker went on, “That’s one of the gifts of working on a show that runs longer than a few weeks, which is rather typical, is you get to experience it through a lot of different lenses over a much longer period of time, and you watch not only the show evolve, but the audience evolve.”

Beyond the political landscape, PUFFS was originally written in a pre-Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts world. Cox and Parker are clear that PUFFS and Potter don’t intersect in any meaningful legal way, although Cox remembers poring over Cursed Child spoilers care of a Brazilian Twitter account in the hopes of keeping Puffs “a puzzle piece” that may slot neatly into the Potterverse, should fans choose to do so. (Cox refers to the serendipity of PUFFS playing only seven short blocks away from Cursed Child as “a nice little blessing.”)

Cursed Child garnered a polarizing fan reaction from canon purists in 2016, and the latest Fantastic Beasts movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald, has evoked straight-up ire. From the shabby treatment of the few characters of color in the franchise, to the steadfast defense of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, plus JK Rowling’s continuing Twitter-sponsored embroidery of the Wizarding World, fandom fatigue has more than kicked in. In light of this, fans may well prefer Cox’s dogged embrasure of the canon.

PUFFS doesn’t shy away from pointing out the frustrating aspects of the canon in a lighthearted and affectionate way: nostalgia-plus-parody-equals-catharsis for anyone who has ever pored over a Potter plothole. But it’s not just funny and fan servicey—it’s compassionate and current. For the viewer seeking distraction, inspiration, or affirmation, PUFFS delivers all three admirably.

The filmed play is beautifully crisp and well-cut, and fans who have seen the play before will notice new details in shots closer than any in-person theatergoer could dream of getting. (My personal favorite visual jokes are Wayne’s (Zac Moon) personalized tee shirts and Voldemort’s (James Fouhey) taped-down nose.) Nick Carrillo’s frat boy jock Zack Smith nearly steals the whole show in his single scene (I won’t spoil it here, but suffice to say Carrillo—who has, sadly, since left the show—was given the freedom to ad-lib his scene in every single performance. The credits include further examples from other performances.)

As ever, the main trio of Wayne, Oliver (Langston Belton), and Megan (Julie Ann Earls) exhibit great chemistry and anchor the revolving door of chameleonic ensemble members.

“I’m constantly surprised and amazed that the show is still running,” said Cox. “Especially now that thousands of people are getting to see this thing for the first time, who live, y’know, anywhere other than New York. I’m so happy people are able to watch it and I hope that people—especially their Puff friends—love it.”

Cox and Parker continue to support PUFFS and work on new theater projects together and apart: they’re developing an Interactive Western play (wink, wink) entitled The Magnificent Revengers, and Parker’s theater collective Recent Cutbacks is producing their play KEVIN!!!!! (you might recall a certain Christmas movie about a boy left home…alone) at IndyFringe from December 13th-23rd.

Filed Under: Other Potter Related, Review