So the play (is it one or two plays?) just continues where the books and movies left off?
It’s one play, performed in two separate parts — like “Angels in America,” but with spells. It picks up where the epilogue to the seventh novel does: 19 years after Hogwarts, when Harry is a father of three, married to Ginny, Ron’s little sister. (Cover your eyes if you don’t want any spoilers.) Harry is doing well in his wizarding career — if not as well as Hermione, who’s Minister for Magic — yet he fumbles at parenthood. Several characters fit the description of the title’s “cursed child,” and one of them is Harry’s younger son, Albus Severus, who struggles under the weight of his father’s enduring fame. The story is partly about their troubled relationship.
Eesh. Why would anyone name his child Albus Severus?
Albus is in honor of Albus Dumbledore, a great wizard and the kindly, enigmatic (though when it came to student safety, appallingly lax) headmaster of Hogwarts in Harry’s day. Severus is for Severus Snape, the acerbic potions professor Harry spent years loathing before he discovered that Snape was a brave and decent guy, just deep undercover. Snape was also the head of Slytherin House.
And Slytherin House is what?
Based on inner qualities divined by a hat (yes, a hat), each student at Hogwarts is assigned to live in one of four houses. The two that matter are Gryffindor, which was Harry’s, and Slytherin, which might have a less ominous reputation if Tom Riddle hadn’t belonged to it. Harry’s son Albus, much to his initial dismay, is a Slytherin. So is his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy, whose family goes way back with the Dark Lord.
Bad egg, this Scorpius?
Harry assumes so, because he’s hated Scorpius’s dad, Draco, since they were children on opposing sides in the war between good and evil. But when Albus steals a forbidden instrument, intending to travel back in time and save Cedric Diggory — a Hogwarts student killed in front of teenage Harry at Voldemort’s command — Scorpius is right by his side.
Seriously, this is a lot of back story. Is it possible to enjoy the show if you’re not already a Potterite?
Would it help if you knew that it’s an allegory with enormous resonance in our politically stormy age? Sure, you’ll miss details, but the vivid and intricate world Ms. Rowling invented is beloved for a reason. She’s no slouch at character or plot, either. Part 1 of the play ends with a deep, dark cliffhanger, and Part 2 is all about resolving that.
So it’s best to see the two parts in order?
Definitely. You can do it all in one marathon or on separate days. Don’t count on getting discounted tickets to such a highly anticipated show (at present, they’re not even an option for groups or schools), and remember that you will need a separate ticket to each part. But there are 150 $20 tickets for each performance, and another 150 for $40 or less. Once previews start, those will include a small batch of $20 tickets for some of the best seats, released online every Friday for the following week. Otherwise, though, you may be paying from $70 to $199 for a single nonpremium seat. Resist the temptation to buy from anywhere other than harrypottertheplay.com or Ticketmaster. (The Lyric Theater box office is not yet open for in-person sales.) Demand is voracious. As in London, counterfeiters will try to take advantage of that.
O.K., then. But is the play too scary for young children?
Three words: soul-sucking dementors. In terms of inspiring terror in little kids, the dementors — black-cloaked figures that are exactly what they sound like — are probably in the same league as the flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz.” The producers of “The Cursed Child” say it’s for ages 10 and up. Children 4 and older are allowed, but bear in mind that each part clocks in at more than two and a half hours.
Harry means well when he promises Albus that there’s nothing to be frightened of at Hogwarts. But the magical world can be a very scary place.