February 22, 2015

A show about the brutal murder of a 14-year-old boy should not, logically speaking, leave you beaming with joy. And yet that’s the paradoxical effect of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, a superlative solo show at Dixon Place written and performed by James Lecesne, himself a pretty darn dazzling beacon of theatrical talent. Please, one-person-show haters — you know who you are, and you are legion — don’t stop reading. Mr. Lecesne, a young-looking 60, who has been “telling stories for over 25 years,” as his bio modestly puts it, ranks among the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation. His is not one of those here’s-what-happened-to-me-and-isn’t-it-fascinating feasts of oversharing that proliferate on small stages. Mr. Lecesne has the channel-changing virtuosity to portray a hardened New Jersey detective; a withdrawn teenage girl; her abrasive but warmhearted hairdresser mom; the British proprietor of a dance-and-drama school; and at least half a dozen equally distinctive characters. Each is drawn with the precision of a fine engraving and a dollop of a great cartoonist’s comic expressionism. But Mr. Lecesne is also 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, or the likes of Gone Girl.