BWW Review: THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY Takes You on a Multi-Character Journey of Discovery
The critically acclaimed off-Broadway hit THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY, written by and starring James Lecesne, the writer of the Academy Award-winning film Trevor, is currently onstage at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through January 31, 2016. The play is based on his young adult novel, Absolute Brightness, published by Harper Collins, which received The William Morris Award by the American Librarian Association and was nominated for The Lambda Literary Award.
Veteran New York actor and writer James Lecesne portrays every character in a small Jersey shore town as they unravel the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who has gone missing. At first Lecesne introduces the story as Chuck De Santos, a small town detective assigned to locate the missing teen after his guardian Ellen, an over-the-top mob wife who owns the "Hair Today" salon, who, along with her 16-year-old daughter Phoebe, reports him missing. As he interviews the people from Leonard's life, Lecesne transforms himself into each of them with a quick turn of his body, completely changing his voice and physicality as be morphs from male to female, young to old. It is an amazing tour-de-force one-man performance that will enthrall you as several characters are brought fully to life without the use of costumes or props.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Leonard made his mark by wearing a pair of homemade, rainbow platform sneakers and insisting he be allowed to wear wings for his portrayal as the sprite Ariel in Shakespeare's The Tempest. His belief that love is the absolute brightness between people who are being themselves makes Leonard a luminous force of nature whose magic is only truly felt by those who knew him after he disappears. Without ever being seen onstage but described in great detail by Lecesne as those who knew him, Leonard becomes the unexpected inspiration for a town as they question how they live, who they love and what they may leave behind.
Lecesne has long been a proponent of LGBT causes, especially for troubled teens who, like himself, remained closeted, depressed and suicidal for years. His vision for writing the play creates an excellent forum for open discussion of how important it is to be who you are; no matter what others may think about you. It's an excellent lesson for everyone to learn and share with all their loved ones.
THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY is a guest production at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, located at 9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232. This new play, just awarded the United Solo Special Award and is a New York Times Critic's Pick, is produced by Darren Bagert and Daryl Roth, directed by Tony Speciale, with original music by Tony Award-winning composer Duncan Sheik. With scenic design by Jo Winiarski, lighting design by Matt Richards, sound design by Christian Frederickson, projection design by Aaron Rhyne, original animation & photography by Matthew Sandager, you will be transformed into the lives of James Lecesne's brilliantly developed characters. His performance will leave you amazed and dazzled, wishing for more! Performances continue through January 31 with tickets priced from $25 available at www.absolutebrightnessplay.com or by calling (213) 972-4488.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
James Lecesne as Detective Chuck De Santos investigates the disappearance of Leonard Pelkey