Even before the start of the show, Lee J. Kaplan’s performance is in full swing as viewers attempt to find their seats. Kaplan exercises strenuously, jumping rope, boxing and fighting his imaginary demons.
Bully, a one man show by Lee J. Kaplan, shown during NYC’s Fringe Festival, is a visceral experience encapsulating his intense meditations on being bullied as a child. Using direct entries from his journal, Kaplan showcases both the psychological and emotional bullying that occurred in his childhood. Kaplan moves back and forth seamlessly between his grade school classroom experience and his current adult self.
Kaplan is earnest, eager and passionate in his role, deeply exploring his past painful memories and transforming them into moments for reflection, teachings and even light-hearted laughs. He dances, sings, fights and breaks down as he speaks to his former twelve year old self, giving that young child advice on how to deal with bullies, how to build confidence and the future possibilities in his life. He’s also swiftly adept at impersonating everyone from his former teacher to the cheerleader he had a crush on, making him a joy to watch on stage.
Bully balances both the serious and the humorous material in a thoughtful manner, never minimizing Kaplan’s authentic experiences. It’s a show with a ton of passion and heart, but never delves into the terrain of overly sentimental. It’s a compelling experience that should be required viewing for everyone, students and adults.