There’s nothing quite as gratifying as spending 90 minutes in the company of a gifted storyteller.
James Lecesne holds his audience rapt at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, where his solo show “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” is playing through the end of the month.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys human-centered stories, who can’t resist a detective yarn no matter how basic and who enjoys watching an actor impersonate a town full of kooky yet hilariously recognizable characters, then click off the television and head to Culver City. This show, which was an off-Broadway sleeper, is what you’ve been waiting for.
Lecesne begins with such guff, blue-collar masculinity that it’s something of a shock when he morphs in a blink into Ellen Hertle, owner of a local beauty salon, who marches into his office with her 16-year-old disaffected daughter, Phoebe.
Ellen reports the disappearance of Leonard, whom she has been raising after his mother (the ex-girlfriend of Ellen’s useless brother) died. Phoebe tells the detective that Leonard is gay, but Ellen explains that he’s just not like other boys.
One of the sneakers, covered in mud, is recovered. But Leonard, whose image we have to imagine from a blurry photograph, remains missing. The production, staged with graceful economy by Tony Speciale, provides the perfect background for Lecesne’s living narrative to shine.
Lecesne might not work out the details of this case with the shrewdness of Agatha Christie, but he manages to convey the meaning of this loss in a town that suddenly begins to feel the absence of such a creative, peacefully nonconforming spirit.
“The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” is an affecting and entertaining testament to the beauty of a world in which difference is celebrated rather than denigrated.