By: Sandi Durell
James Lecesne is a fascinating compilation of talent, in this solo show, playing multiple characters at the Westside Theatre. From Chuck, the Joisey sleuth, to the local hairdresser Ellen Hertle, who whirls into his office with her teen daughter Phoebe (who calls her Mother a “control freak”), they’re off on a hunt for Ellen’s disappearing nephew Leonard, now missing for over 19 hours.
You may remember James Lecesne who founded the Trevor Project, a suicide and crisis intervention program for gay youth; this play based on his 2008 novel “Absolute Brightness.” Lecesne has a special aptitude for morphing genuinely into the various characters he portrays with ease, wit and a serious intent that make his points vivid and meaningful.
As the investigation unfolds, we learn that Leonard attended a drama school owned by a Brit who talks about Leonard’s expressive “jazz hands” while Ellen recalls the rainbow colored platform sneakers he made by gluing multi-colored flip-flops to the bottom of his high tops. But, alas, things don’t look good for Leonard when a loudmouth-type mob widow, Gloria, recalls seeing one of those shoes floating in the river. Yes, someone has murdered this flamboyant gay 14 year old – a hate crime. As Chuck questions the many who knew Leonard, including the town’s clock repairman who had a gay son, it is Marion, one of Ellen’s clients, who has the most heartfelt words to explain Leonard when she says “I tried to warn him . . . tone it down honey . . . nail polish, mascara. . . Do you have to be so much yourself? “
Lecesne’ message rings loud and truthfully as our acceptance of those different from ourselves grows more compassionate in our difficult world as we better understand the many obstacles young people must face when they decide to be true to themselves.
Directed with great precision by Tony Speciale (founder of Plastic Theatre – author of The Secret Court – Unnatural Acts at Classic Stage Co.), it features original music by Duncan Sheik. Running time: approx. 90 minutes.
The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey continues at Westside Theatre – downstairs – 407 West 43 St. NYC www.absolutebrightnessplay.com Runs thru Oct. 4th.
Photos: Matthew Murphy