A Summary & Review of The Aptly Named Bully Plays
Drama 3’s “The Bully Plays,” clocking in at 65 minutes, has a pretty straightforward premise.
The play, or should I say plays, consists of a compilation of anecdotes revolving around bullying. Originally compiled by Linda Habjan and directed by MVHS drama teacher Lisa Goin, the show features 9 separate plays (although the full compilation features 24 plays), similar to MVHS Drama’s last performance, “Almost, Maine”; each play has its own twist that makes it comedic/intriguing in its own way and provides a good message for the audience to consider about bullying.
The first play, “The Bully Pulpit”, featured student president candidate Barbara (Anna Mut) make a speech promising to prevent bullying at all costs, this is ironically juxtaposed with the way the audience sees Barbara treat the people who manage her campaign, which is absolutely horrendously, telling her best friend, Katie (Anna Rodeheaver), that she should break up with her boyfriend because he is telling her to stand up for herself against Barbara and twists it to try to convince Katie that her boyfriend is the bully.
The second play, “Alex” (my personal favorite), features only one character, Alex (Katie McCarthty), as she tells her father of all the bullying and bad things that are going on in school, but while doing this she purposely avoids telling him about her personal grievances involving bullying.
The third play, “A Bully There Be,” is one of the most farfetch’d of the 9 plays, taking place in medieval times and focusing on a Prince (Ella Njike Chatien) who abuses his jester (Griffin Bacon) and serving girl (Maya Garcia), I found the message to be lacking in this particular play, I guess you could say that the message was that even the most powerful people in the world are insecure (the plot focuses on the insecurities of the Prince) but the ending where the serving girl focuses the prince to not harass any of his royal subjects anymore if she kisses him seems like a lot a bit of a stretch, but to be fair the plays are centered around being fairly lighthearted.
The fourth play, “Downhill,” follows a pretty simple message, bullying rolls downhill. This is portrayed through a parent, Michaela (Lily Rezvani), being yelled out by her employer, Cynthia (Liliana Seaver), for being an embarrassment to the company, this negative attitude rolls downhill to the parent’s daughter, Jackie (Elena Shumaker), who then bullies a student, Tracy (Evie Sisk) to try to get math homework done for them, this cycle finally ends when Tracy initially gets mad at her sister Emma (Izzy Maclennan) but then realizes that she should not take out her anger on someone who does not deserve it. Although the play had a pretty simple concept it executed it well and the portrayal of it by the actors was executed extremely well.
The fifth play, “Bystander Blues,” is the most depressing of the 9 plays, featuring elements of depression, regret, and suicide. Katie (Emily Calzada) is constantly bullied by Johnny (Mark Garcia) and Samantha (Ella) while 3 bystanders (Maddeie Beymer, Sophia Rad, and Parker Carlisle) watch by and let it happen, the next day Katie doesn’t show up and it could be inferred from the diction that she had killed herself (they reference her in the past tense). This ending was very unforeseen for me, I did not expect the plays to cover topics aht serious, especially after the four prior more lighthearted plays.
The sixth play, “A Bunch of Clowns,” uses the partly abstract metaphor of a circus to portray the reasoning for people becoming bullies. Their is a ringmaster (Avery Harrington), a metaphor for the societal standard, who informs the new kid (Bella Grasso) that she has to be one of the three clowns, the bully (McLaren Booth), the bullee/victim (Brooke Metoyer), and the bystander (Izzy MacLennan). With only these three options the most fun and interesting option is the bully, so it would be obvious that the new kid would join the bully in bullying the victim, but then the new kid is asked to the bully and the bully realizes how bad being the victim is, and so tells the new kid to bully the ringmaster, but the new kid realizes that she does not have to be these three people and she can instead be her own person.
The seventh play, “Gasp, Farrah, Monster,” covers three separate stories, one about a young man (Eren Sarik) who tells the audience about how he bullied a kid in school years back and tells us how he realizes now how wrong it was; the second covers a young woman (Jordan Lausten) who had been bullied after an untrue rumor was spread about her being a wild girl, people then began calling her “T girl” (t for tramp) she thought about taking pills to cope with the pain and the constant embarrassment; the third introduces us to a woman who calls herself a monster (Maya Garcia), she tells us about how she was bullied and beat down and from this she was able to build up a wall, that she now uses today to be a ruthless businesswoman. While the play was not bad I felt that the play would have been much better if the three stories were cohesive (in that the monster, young woman, and young man mentioned one of each other in their story/could be inferred that one of them knew the other).
The eight play, “We’re Your Friends,” covers toxic relationships and peer pressure. Stacy (Katie McCarthy) is a student in high school who is constantly put down by her ‘friends’ who tell her she looks bad in her clothes and tell her to aim low, they also peer pressure into bringing alcohol to the theater and threaten to tell on her if she does not drink. While they do this bullying they make Stacy the third wheel, their toy to play with and criticize however they want.
The ninth play, “Bully Bully,” is the other contender for the most out there play of the 9, featuring an anthropomorphic dog, Ted (Brooke Metoyer), and a reflection of the main character, J’Neece’s (Rachel Bolich), past self, Janis, (Hannah Stonebarger)–she changed her name because she found Janis to be a boring name–the play uses these three characters to represent J’Neece’s train of thought and let us know that she is focusing too much on trying to be popular, purposefully not caring about schoolwork and pretending to not know it when she does, and disregarding her dog and in place working on cheerleading or, when her mother (Anna Mut) asks her to, nothing. The inclusion of the creative characters allowed the play to still be comedic and entertaining while covering the thought process of a 14 year old coming of age.
“The Bully Plays” successfully executes a comedic play while also featuring messages about the harmful impacts of bullying. The messages are not groundbreaking but more like platitudes (think “treat people how you want to be treated”), but to be fair that is all the message people can have to be encouraged to stop bullying, they just have to realize that they are hurting someone and take action to stop it.