The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

Westside Theatre Downstairs

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In a Nutshell

Solo performer James Lecesne’s “whodunit with a heart of gold” (New Yorker) captures a town’s response when an unforgettable kid vanishes

The Fine Print

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The Deal

Critical acclaim: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey was featured in The New York Times and was named a “Critics’ Choice” New York Post and Daily News.

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

From the writer of the Academy Award-winning film Trevor comes The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey: the new play written and performed by James Lecesne, directed by Tony Speciale, and with original music by Tony Award-winning composer Duncan Sheik of Spring Awakening. When Leonard Pelkey and his homemade rainbow platform sneakers disappear from his small New Jersey town, Ellen Hertle leaps into action. She barges into the office of a hard-boiled detective and demands that the police find the unforgettable 14-year-old before something terrible happens. Through his investigation, Detective DeSantis encounters person after person touched by Leonard’s brightness, an experience he recounts to the audience a decade after the fact. Though the events are grim, the boy’s impact is clear: his brightness was contagious. As the New York Times put it, somehow this dark story leaves audiences “beaming with joy.”

Another important detail: all of those characters, and many others, are played by James Lecesne. He invented them, too. Adapted from his 2008 young adult novel, Absolute Brightness, Lecesne’s “whodunit with a heart of gold” (The New Yorker) thrills to life in his capable hands as he displays the chops that put him “among the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation,” according to the Times. Although Leonard’s absence rings like a bell throughout the story, he’s perhaps the most vividly drawn character of them all. And it’s little wonder: Lecesne’s passion for telling stories about LGBT youth has earned him an Academy Award (for the short film Trevor) and led him to co-found The Trevor Project, a 24-hour hotline for suicide prevention and crisis intervention.

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