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The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

Narrated by: James Lecesne
Length: 1 hr and 2 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (53 ratings)

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Summary

Writer of the Academy award-winning short Trevor, founder of The Trevor Project (a 24-hour nationwide crisis hotline for LGBTQIA+ youth), and stage and screen actor, James Lecesne performs his hit off-Broadway play, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. This live performance of a powerful police procedural comes to life through the artistry of James Lecesne and is accompanied by the original music of Duncan Sheik. James portrays every character in a small Jersey Shore town as he unravels the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who has gone missing. A luminous force of nature whose magic is only truly felt once he is gone, Leonard becomes an unexpected inspiration as the town’s citizens question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. 

Brash detective Chuck DeSantis seeks out answers as to why Leonard is missing. Along the way, questions about the teen’s sexuality force members of the community to confront their own biases and beliefs. This poetic piece of audio leads listeners down an important path towards understanding and acceptance. The entire town changes forever because of Leonard Pelkey - a character originally from James Lecesne’s young adult book Absolute Brightness that inspired the play. This whodunit brims with humor and heart and delivers a deeply important message about love, prejudice, and being yourself. 

The New York Times raved that The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey "...leave[s] you beaming with joy...a superlative solo show...Mr. Lecesne is a writer of wit and keen observational skills, who here unfolds a dark tale that shimmers with the needling suspense you associate with the best police procedurals." 

Written and performed by James Lecesne
Sound design by Christian Frederickson
Original music by Duncan Sheik 

Note: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey contains adult language.

©2019 James Lecesne (P)2019 AO Media LLC
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  • Overall
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Poignant story

A poignant story exceedingly well performed by the author who plays the many varied parts

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Inspiring story

I really enjoyed this play about an inspiring character.
The narrator acts all the parts and each is distinct and easy to understand. Excellent work.

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Must listen

just loved it!
I couldn't get use to the accent at first but then every character came alive and I could have listen even longer, I wanted there to be more !
heartwarming story

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Excellent

An excellent, gripping and very well performed piece, telling truths that need to be told

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A great way to spend an hour

this book transported me to New York and its everyday inhabitants. Well observed, funny, harrowing and a thought provoking read. Fabulously read by the author using inflections for each character.

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Great listen

Well read
Enjoyable easy to listen
Touching and sincere
I recommend this - for an absorbing story

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Well worth an hour of you time.

A really enjoyable performance of a well-written and engaging story by a truly versatile actor. Spot on. Loved it.

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Weird

Not one of the best short stories I've heard but listed to the end as I was intreagued

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Judge not lest Ye be judged

Drop your inbuilt inhibitions, preconceptions and biases and learn about how inner beauty can shine out brightly from the youngest and humblest source. Truly moving

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Brilliant, absolutely brilliant

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Hard to describe it any other way, listen for yourself. You'll love it.

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Profile Image for 'Nathan
  • 'Nathan
  • 16-09-19

A Story About People Like Me, But Not For Us.

I listened to this one this morning while I walked the dog, and it's safe to say I'm sitting here beyond conflicted. I think it's because "The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey" is about me, but it's not at all—on any level—for me.

Let me explain. James Lecense wrote, narrated, and acted this himself, playing all the characters, and he did a pretty solid job. I believed the voices, the characters, and definitely the camp. If you don't know who James Lecense is—as I didn't—he wrote the short "Trevor," and is a founder of "The Trevor Project." Lecense is obviously a massive force in education and promoting empathy among those who don't seem to want to consider us LGBT folk as human. And we are absolutely the better for having him among us, as "Trevor" and "The Trevor Project" are both incredible forces for good. Truly.

This audio might do the same for some readers. In fairness, I'm not sure I would have picked it up had I known a bit more about it. The blurb describes Leonard as "a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who goes missing."

"Missing."

Now, I suppose it could be considered a spoiler to mention that almost immediately in the narrative we find out what happened to Leonard (and I'm going to, so eject here if you want), but the phrasing there had me thinking I was potentially in for a story about a kid who took off for somewhere else, or maybe a mystery that's never unraveled. Instead, no, it's pretty much what ever story about a missing fourteen year old turns into, and we learn that Leonard has been murdered and tied down and dropped in a lake.

At the funeral, the cop writes "Possible Hate Crime" down on his notepad for the first time, and I start to realize this is a story about people like me but it's not for people like me. It's for people who need examples of people like me doing good and bringing light into the world being snuffed out to frame it from the point of view of a tragedy, to teach and learn how awful that is.

I already know. And I'm exhausted by endless stories where every LGBT person in the story is dead (because this gets doubled-down later, of course, when the cop interviews a side-character I believe we're meant to empathize with mentions how he used to be an abusive father to his own LGBT kid because he wanted to beat it out of him, but he got a second chance through meeting Leonard, to "do it right this time," but yeah, too late for his kid, his kid died in the 90's. Oh, and would the cop like some hot chocolate?)

There is zero closure to this story. We never find out why the killer did what he did. We never find out how he and Leonard ended up in each other's presence on the final day. We never hear the murderer speak about his crime, though he does get a maximum sentence (underscoring we're in fiction territory). No, All we're given is a moving tribute from the cop—a man who never met Leonard— about how the light from this kid shines on in everyone he met and touched and I am so very, very done.

So, that was my one-star emotional, frustrated, angry reaction to yet another story about how hate kills us but we're supposed to celebrate posthumous LGBT light because the kid may have died, but he changed us all, so he's not really gone forever. No. He's gone. Forever.

So why did I give it three stars? Because it's a five-star story for not-LGBTfolk in the same way that "but what if it was your daughter?" is sometimes the only way to get some men to consider the impact of misogyny when they should damn well be fully capable of understanding all women matter regardless of relation. There's a line in the performance where someone bemoans how they don't believe "everything happens for a reason" (and huzzah to that!) but that "you have to find the reason in everything" and I think that's the crux of this story's purpose. I didn't need that reason. I didn't need that story. I've lived it, thanks. But who knows, maybe there are people out there who'll find it inspiring or moving or in some way enlightening. But if you already know LGBT people shouldn't be killed for being themselves, or if you're LGBT yourself and really tired of stories where the whole point is how people learn from us when we're murdered, I'd suggest skipping this one completely. I wish I had.

The audio performance was, as I said, really strong. You can tell Lecesne is an actor and although sometimes the choice to go into high camp with the characters clashes with the tone of the narrative's events, characterization never wavers, and you always know who's speaking.

148 people found this helpful

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  • Elisabeth
  • 06-09-19

Sad

The performance is the best part of this . This is a heartfelt take on a sad and far too frequent story. It involves a hate crime and how what happens to one person can have a ripple effect on so may others. I think the intent was to be uplifting, but i found it to be depressing. This is one that will stay with you.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Gretchen SLP
  • 05-10-19

🌈💡James Lecesne Has Given the World a Treasure 🌏💎💡

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this brilliant jewel of a one-man play. I’ve never heard anything like it, and likely never will again. The scene with the teenaged girl delivering the impromptu eulogy at the funeral will stay with me. Bravo, Mr. Lecescne! I only wish that everyone in the world could listen to this. I’m already recommending it to everyone I know.

Grade: A+

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Darcy
  • 08-09-19

Great writing/Funny and touching

This I would pay for even! Sent me right to Wikipedia for more info about James Lecesne. Such a talent! Thank you, Audible, for bringing all these wonderful plays and performances to us each month. You are totally redefining the listening experience.

15 people found this helpful

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  • GentlyLovedBooks
  • 06-09-19

Sadly Heartwarming

This was the perfect short listen. It's uplifting and tragic at the same time. The author did a wonderful job translating the brightness and inspiring comfortabilty of Leonard.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Amber
  • 06-09-19

Terrific!

Wonderful performances, great story with good substance, and just an all around good listen. my only complaint is that I didn't want it to end so soon.

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Brandee
  • 14-09-19

HOLY GUACAMOLE! MUST LISTEN!

Funny, quirky, sad, brilliantly written and narrated. He is AMAZING! Take a chance. it totally pays off. I wish it was longer

13 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lori
  • 12-09-19

Fantastic!

I’ve never written a review before, and I’ve been an audible customer for 15 years or so…
This story is a fantastic gem. A well-crafted short story; moving, nicely paced, authentic dialogue that reveals characters three dimensionally. Beautifully performed. I highly recommend.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-09-19

Exceptional voice acting

Some of the best voice acting I have ever heard. I thoroughly enjoyed this funny, moving story.

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lexy
  • 08-09-19

Simply fabulous!

I am so in love and appreciative of the Audible offerings of Broadway solo shows like this one. Beautifully written, performed and produced, it made my heart open and gave me hope for the human species. Thank you Mr. Lescane and Audible!

9 people found this helpful