Seth Duerr directs and plays Leslie, an anti-Semitic college professor whose court-ordered public lecture is this play. Dark, yet humorous, Leslie's lecture transcends its purpose and becomes a reflection on the nature of hate and of the professor himself. Following the performance, both Cohen and Duerr will hold a Q&A session on this provocative one-man show.
After being arrested for drunk driving followed by an anti-Semitic rant, college professor Leslie (Duerr) can avoid jail time if he enters rehab, attends anger management classes, and gives a lecture on a figure from a list of The 100 Most Influential Jews of All Time. Rather than choose a more famous figure, such as Einstein or Moses, he picks Number 82: Daniel Mendoza, the 18th century British bare-knuckle boxing champion and father of "scientific boxing."
In presenting the life and times of Mendoza, Leslie allows details about his personal life to creep into his monologue. The audience discovers, through quick and sardonic asides, what led him to this point, gaining insight to the professor's tumultuous marriage, arrest, sentencing, and character. The Punishing Blow is an exploration of anti-Semitism, boxing, marriage, and of a man's own insecurity and bitterness.