The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey’

Todd Van Voris, flying solo

The whodunit 'The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey' is a one-man show

Todd Van Voris has many strengths as an actor: emotional depth and versatility, a knack for the telling gestural detail, that essential ability to appear centered in a particular character in a particular moment. All of those skills come into play in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, the multi-faceted and surprisingly moving solo show he’s performing these days for Triangle Productions. But there’s a reason he’s been called by the nickname Todd Van Voice. The most readily noticeable of his gifts is his vocal instrument, a strong yet flexible baritone, warm and weighty; not the bold, burled mahogany of, say, the late, great Portland actor Ted Roisum, perhaps, but unmistakably resonant and masculine.

Such a voice presents a challenge, oddly enough, in Absolute Brightness, which was originated three years ago by the writer/actor James Lecesne, based on his own young-adult novel from 2008.

Todd Van Voris’s many-splendored shoes. Photo courtesy Triangle Productions

In its theatrical form, the story follows hard-boiled New Jersey police detective Chuck DeSantis on the trail of Leonard, a missing 14-year-old boy. As things move from seemingly frivolous to grim to life-affirming (and morally instructive, natch), we meet a colorful assortment of characters — from Chuck’s loud-mouthed colleague to Leonard’s vain and harried de facto stepmother, Ellen (Leonard is her “brother’s ex-girlfriend’s son”), to his self-consciously British acting teacher to his nervous teenage peers from school, to ladies from the hair salon where he helped out.

And, as we said, solo show. So Van Voris is charged with bringing all of this disparate crew to life.

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