Square One Theatre Company, Stratford: Every now and then, a critic realizes how fortunate community theater is to have an extraordinary talent in its midst. Such is actor Alexander Kulcsar who is currently starring in Square One’s production of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by James Lecesne. In what can only be described as a “tour de force,” Kulcsar’s performance in this one-man show that features many characters is as enlightening as it is entertaining.
One has to ask, how does he do it? How does he move from “seen it all” Jersey detective Chuck DeSantis to a demanding woman without raising his voice to a fake high pitch like one those phony womanly sounds? How does he move from a quiet and rather shy teenage girl to a jeweler who repairs clocks to a sports coach? Mind you that there are no set changes in this 75- minute production. Props are absolutely minimal and the only accessories that he added were a pair of sunglasses and a pocket watch. If you look closely, which is hard to do because his performance is so compelling that he brings you right into the story, you see that he uses the flick of a finger, the twist of the lip, the shift of his weight, the lowering of an eye to create his characters. Never do you doubt which character he is portraying, but never do you witness an obvious vocal or costume change. As usual Kulcsar’s performance is mesmerizing.
The suspects are important because the play revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a teen named Leonard Pelkey. The first real clue the detective gets comes from a hairstylist who said she remembers him wearing rainbow colored sneakers. He had been proud of the ankle high sneakers because he made them himself by layering one color flip flop on top of the other. He had also been warned to tone down the nail polish and makeup he was wearing. It doesn’t take long for the audience to realize that Leonard must be gay.
There’s a lot more to this play than the story of the hate crime committed against Pelkey. It’s about the “evil-doers” in the world who are still prejudiced against gay men and women. The absolute brightness of Pelkey comes through when we realize that even though warned about being so openly gay, he was true to himself. His life was full and rich as he lived it unafraid.
This is a wonderful opportunity to witness an unforgettable performance at Square One Theatre Company. It plays through May 20. Box office: 203-375-8778.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected].