Log in Subscribe
Forestburgh Playhouse

A Shining Star in “Absolute Brightness…”

In Review

Bill Moloney
Posted 6/23/23

It has been a mere year and a half since I retired from the police world, but the memories of those days seem to be from so much longer ago. The opening of the Forestburgh Playhouse season is always …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Forestburgh Playhouse

A Shining Star in “Absolute Brightness…”

In Review


It has been a mere year and a half since I retired from the police world, but the memories of those days seem to be from so much longer ago. The opening of the Forestburgh Playhouse season is always a highly anticipated time for me. Back to the theater. See a show. Do some writing! As I settled into my seat waiting for the lights to come up on “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey”, little did I know that I’d be yanked back into that police world I’d just left. (Meeting an old cop acquaintance outside the box office should have been a clue!)

Without theatrical fanfare, Chuck addressed the audience. His intro starts out with clichéd cop talk from the movies. But then he gets to “the case”; the disappearance of a 14 year old boy. I found myself listening to this guy as if he was one of the many cops I’ve worked with for decades. He’s tough, seen it all, been around the block. After all, these are the types of cops who investigate the “heavies”. As a crime scene cop, the “heavies” were my bread and butter, so we worked side by side with guys like Chuck all the time. And, of course, every crime involving children hit a sensitive nerve with cops.

The child is Leonard Pelkey. Leonard is a flamboyant 14 year old who is described as being over-the-top, too much, and someone who should tone it down a bit for his own good. However, these same witnesses also describe Leonard as possessing a shining goodness within him that touches everyone he meets. His disappearance and the investigation that follows start to unfold.

Set in an unnamed Jersey shore small town, the play runs without intermission and is performed by one actor. This actor plays about eight very different roles with the smoothest of transitions using subtle and incredibly effective mannerisms. This actor is Tom Souhrada. It is obvious from his extensive bio that he has been around the theatre block himself… more than a few times! Mr. Souhrada’s flawless role changes happen so effortlessly, so naturally. His complete and unbelievably simple transformations never keep us guessing as to who he is in that moment. He is the detective, Leonard’s quasi-aunt Ellen who owns a hair salon and reports Leonard missing, Ellen’s daughter Phoebe, the British local drama teacher, hair salon customers, a mob widow, potential witnesses, and Otto, a local clock repair shop owner where Leonard hid from bullies. Mr. Souhrada breathes truthful life into every one of the many characters he plays. These roles take him from outrageously funny personalities to witness Q&As to sad admissions, angry exchanges and tender moments of personal reflection. 

Playwright James Lecesne presents a delicate string of dialog that amuses, but is also sometimes hard to hear. Sometimes hard to admit or accept, but that ultimately provokes very deep thought. He takes a tough subject and presents it in a no-nonsense format that makes us ask ourselves, “Are we any better?” One of my favorite parts is when Otto addresses this very dilemma. Without even meeting Leonard, Mr. Lecesne clearly presents a very clear picture of a beautiful person, a kid who brings out the best in people, and a person not afraid to be who he is even to his own detriment.

I find it difficult to discuss much about the individual characters without giving away too much. What I can say is that every character, every line moves you along to a conclusion that’s worth the ride. And much of that is the result of an outstanding performance by Mr. Souhrada. I can also tell you that I was the first to jump to my feet for his curtain call!

There is great insight that comes to us when awful things happen. Tragedy has a way of making us appreciate life. Loss makes us yearn for those gone and hopefully teaches us to open our eyes and maybe our hearts a bit more. The story of Leonard Pelkey, although a fictional one, can certainly resonate with a vast majority of the population. The vast majority of the population is not Leonard Pelkey, but Leonard is all around us. Amongst our loved ones, in school, at work, or just passing by us in the street. What would we do or what would we think if we met Leonard Pelkey?

“The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” will run through June 25. Tickets and info are available through the box office at (845) 794-1194 or online at fbplayhouse.org.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here