Philadelphia Theatre Company will close its season on May 17 — June 4 with The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, written and performed by James Lecesne and directed by Tony Speciale with original music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening). This production replaces the world premiere of American Canvas by Bill Cain, the winner of PTC’s Terrence McNally New Play Award.
The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is about the disappearance of Leonard Pelkey, a 14-year-old boy who dared to be different, and the small New Jersey town that will never be the same without him. In a one-man tour-de-force, James Lecesne portrays characters in a small Jersey shore town, from a hardened New Jersey detective, a withdrawn teenage girl, her abrasive, but warmhearted hairdresser mother, the British proprietor of a dance-and-drama school, and more than half a dozen equally distinctive personalities as they tell the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year old boy. A luminous force of nature whose magic is only truly felt once he is missing, Leonard becomes the unexpected inspiration for a town as they question how they live, who they love and what they leave behind.
The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey opened at The Westside Theatre in 2015, produced by Darren Bagert and Daryl Roth. It won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Solo Performance and was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show and the Drama Desk Award for Best Solo Performance.
James Lecesne (featured right) wrote the screenplay for the short film Trevor, which won an Academy Award and inspired the founding of The Trevor Project, the only nationwide 24-hour suicide prevention and crisis intervention lifeline for LGBT and questioning youth. He has appeared on Broadway in The Best Man and Off-Broadway in Word of Mouth, which won Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, The Boys in the Band, Motherhood Out Loud, One Man Band, and Cloud 9. On television he was seen in Armistead Maupin’s Further Tales of the City which was nominated for an Emmy Award) and in the ITVS series Vicious with Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. Lecesne has written three novels for young adults, including Absolute Brightness, and he was executive producer of the documentary film After the Storm, which follows the lives of 12 young people living in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Luner Lowdown: “PTC continues to make its mark in the Philadelphia theatre scene this season and this choice is sure to be a fantastic sendoff into the summer. LoT is actively working to attend (hopefully review), and recommends that you attend as well.”
Previews of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey begin on Wednesday, May 17, with opening night on Thursday, May 18. Performances run Tuesdays through Sundays until June 4. Tickets starting at $15 are available by calling the PTC Box Office at 215-985-0420 or visiting PhiladelphiaTheatreCompany.org.