The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey: Theater review by Adam Feldman
James Lecesne has excellent credentials as an artistic advocate for gay adolescents. The 1994 short film he wrote, Trevor, won an Oscar and inspired the Trevor Project, a hotline for suicidal LGBT youth; he is also a fine actor, whose flaming Emory in the 1996 revival of The Boys in the Band still burns brightly in memory. In his new one-man show, adapted from his 2008 young-adult novel, Lecesne plays nine denizens of a small New Jersey town, where an effeminate and headstrong 14-year-old boy has disappeared. The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey’s antibullying message is beyond reproach, and it pulls heartstrings successfully. But the characters are familiar and often bluntly drawn (“You wouldn’t think that, me, Chuck DeSantis, a detective working some godforsaken precinct down the Jersey shore…”), and the central mystery lacks depth and suspense. A blend of Law & Order, The Laramie Project and Encyclopedia Brown, the play does not sprout far enough beyond its teen-lit roots.—Adam Feldman
Westside Theatre (Off Broadway). By James Lecesne. Directed by Tony Speciale. With Lecesne. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission.
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