James Lecesne is a first-class playwright, a novelist, a screenwriter, an actor, and one of the founders of the Trevor Project, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week toll-free hotline for the young LGBTQ+ community, with an emphasis on distress intervention. His novel, Absolute Brightness, was first published in 2008. From it, he created the play The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, a one-actor vehicle that was first performed in 2015 Off Broadway. For performance purposes, Lecesne changed the narrator from 13-year-old Phoebe to middle-aged Detective Chuck, with Lecesne taking on all of the almost a dozen roles. As anyone can imagine, this is a tour-de-force performance for an actor.
The current Honest Pint Theatre Company production of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is like a Master Class, conducted by veteran Raleigh, NC actor David Henderson, under the direction of Susannah Hough. Fortunately, the play is incredibly well written, which may make it easier, even for such an accomplished performer as Henderson. He snaps from character to character with a fluidity that is amazing. There is never a carryover, or an ambiguity in his distinctly clear presentation.
These characters are men and women, old and young, teens and children, all of whom stand on their own as discrete individuals. The timing of Henderson’s character transitions display his acting mastery, and the timing of his comedy is absolutely perfect.
The story centers around a detective who is trying to find a lost teenager, and his investigation reveals that the young man is not only out of the mainstream in terms of gender association, but is also remarkably generous, helpful, and well-liked by adults. We meet a variety of residents on the Jersey Shore who have been touched by his life.
Director Susannah Hough has done a fine job helping David Henderson go through the personality gyrations required to sculpt all these characters so carefully . She has positioned him appropriately on the stage in areas that support each various persona, and certainly guided him through the vagaries of all the roles he plays.
Anthony Buckner’s sound and lighting are precise and enhance the ambience of the all-purpose set by Jen Martin Leiner. Projection design by Will Mikes, based on the original projection design by Aaron Rhyne creates visual props in the telling of the story.
The serious subjects of bullying and of being one’s authentic self, wrought in the exquisite performance of David Henderson, make this an absolute must-see show for all.
SECOND OPINION: April 8th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article206900694.html; April 6th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Roy C. Dicks: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8915; and April 4th Durham, NC Herald-Sun mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-absolute-brightness-of-leonard-pelkey/Event?oid=11825009.
The Honest Pint Theatre Company presents THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY at 3 p.m. April 8 and 7:30 p.m. April 12-14 and 19-21 in the Leggett Theatre on the second floor of Main Building at William Peace University, 15 E. Peace St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and other under 25). BOX OFFICE: https://honest-pint-theatre-company.ticketleap.com/the-absolute-brightness-of-leonard-pelkey/.
INFORMATION: 919-783-0025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://vimeo.com/261147668.
Absolute Brightness (2008 novel): http://absolutebrightnessplay.com/book/ (official web page) and https://us.macmillan.com/absolutebrightness/jameslecesne/9781250106117/ (Macmillan).
The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
James Lecesne (Hasbrouck Heights, NJ-born novelist, playwright, and actor): http://www.jameslecesne.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/james-lecesne-407385 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/4949 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0496043/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lecesne (Wikipedia).
The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (2015 one-man Off-Broadway play): http://absolutebrightnessplay.com/ (official website), https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=5481 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/6023 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books). Study Guide: https://www.hartfordstage.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/StudyGuide_ABLP.pdf (Hartford Stage).
Susannah Hough (Raleigh, NC director and Honest Pint’s co-artistic director): http://www.susannahhough.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3999758/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/susannahhough (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/susannahhough (Twitter page).
David Henderson (Raleigh, NC actor and Honest Pint’s co-artistic director): https://about.me/david_henderson (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3373541/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/theatrescot (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/theatrescot (Twitter page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.