There are very few people not familiar, in some way, shape or form, with the Harry Potter books. If you didn’t read them, you probably saw the movies. If you didn’t see the movies, you might have played one of the various video games. If you didn’t play the video games, you might have visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Fla.
The name Harry Potter has pervaded our consciousness in a way very few other literary characters have of late.
Now we can add another way to experience Harry Potter to the list: onstage, in “Potted Potter.”
Playing at the GE Theatre at Proctors, this production bills itself as “all seven Harry Potter books in 70 hilarious minutes.” It doesn’t fail to deliver, either with the books or the hilarity.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State Street, Schenectady
WHEN: Through January 20
HOW MUCH: $45-$55
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
The setup is simple: two men, all the Harry Potter books, very little in the way of set design, quite a few props. They inform us that there are more than 300 characters in the series. Two men. Three hundred characters. (If you’re guessing some characters have to be left out, you’re correct. It is only 70 minutes, after all.)
The show is high-energy, as it needs to be; the pacing needs to be crisp with a show like this. There’s no time for anything to lag. It has very much the feel of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s productions — such as “The Complete History of America (abridged)” or “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” — packing as many laughs into as short a period of time as it can.
Since the books were geared toward a younger audience, the production tends toward this demographic as well; the more adult themes of the books are glossed over or ignored, and the silly jokes are hit as hard as they can be. Messes are made. Silly costumes are utilized. Loud music and lights are employed. Audience participation is encouraged. The children in the audience are overjoyed, which is never a bad thing.
However, it works on an adult level, as well. You can’t perform a show like this without the intelligence to back it up, and the actors clearly have that. Dan and Jeff (Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, who have been working on and performing the show since 2005) work well together; they’ve clearly been doing this long enough that they take minor missteps as they come, and they seem to sincerely enjoy each other’s company.
Jeff’s more serious character plays well off Dan’s more spontaneous one; Jeff plays Harry Potter most of the night, while Dan plays, well, almost everyone else. (His Volde. . . sorry, “He Who Must Not Be Named” is something not to be missed.)
Some of the most genuinely enjoyable moments come when they make each other laugh spontaneously; much like watching a “Saturday Night Live” skit come a bit unraveled, it’s nice to see the human side of the actors onstage.
Will this work for non-Harry-Potter fans? They may not catch all the jokes, but it’s hard to leave the theater without catching some of the infectious joy from the actors, as well as the other audience members. It’s a show to watch, laugh, and just sit back and enjoy — and sometimes, that’s exactly what’s needed.