Friday, May 4, 2018

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey –Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

The Measure of a Man

     This dark comedy is written by James Lecense and directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space in The Sanctuary, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (free parking lot to the West of the building) through May 26th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

     It is said that the world exists around contrasts.  If that is so, then an old Mexican adage might be true.  For it says that if the Devil/Evil/Darkness exist, it proves the existence of God/Goodness/Brightness, for that is the counter-balance.  No need for Evil, you see, if there wasn’t Good.  And so, in this tale, we shall meet the Brightness through the lives that Leonard touched.

     Leonard is a teenage boy who happens to be gay in a small community on the Jersey Shore.  He has disappeared and it is up to Detective Chuck DeSantis (Todd Van Voris) to find him.  DeSantis is a throw-back to the old Noir detective, ala Mickey Spillane and his ilk.  His partner, Marty, is also just such an animal, too, preferring a loud voice to announce arrivals, rather than the intercom.  A motley crew, to say the least.

Through DeSantis’s investigation, he will meet those that had connected with Leonard.  There is the brash, brassy, Ellen, his “aunt” and caretaker, and owner of the local beauty salon.  There is her daughter, Phoebe, equally outspoken and won’t take crap from anybody.  They have a sort of love/hate relationship with the boy.  Then we have Buddy, the head of the drama school where Leonard attended and who was set to play Ariel in “The Tempest.”  Buddy has had previous run-ins with the law.

Another “upstanding” citizen of this community is Gloria, wife of the late mob boss, who ruled the underworld with an iron fist.  She claims not to have seen anything of note but does have two, big ears and hears a lot.   In contrast (see how this theory works) Marion is a bird-watcher and sees all sorts of things, including, perhaps, some things she shouldn’t.  Otto is a German watchmaker of the old school and has no use for this new electronic age, as he feels there is no art to it (he and I concur on that level).  He and leonard would chat and read stories to each other at times after his classes.  And Travis is one of the bullies that would beat up on Leonard regularly, just because he was different.

     All friends of Leonard’s, in odd ways, perhaps, and, of course, also suspects.  And, one more thing, which rises this play to another level, Van Voris plays all the characters!  And, besides the community, there are also the clues, which range from his backpack and one sneaker, some fairy wings he made, to a money clip his mother gave him, et. al.  Of course, I’m not going to give away the ending, that would be cheating, like reading the last page of a mystery (oh, you do that, too, shame on us).

     But the purpose of this story is not really about the mystery itself but, as mentioned, about contrasts, about how we are all inner-connected, and how one person, who dares to live his life the way he chooses, despite obstacles and opposition, can waylay the fears in ourselves to rise to a higher level.  Also, as Attis Finch, in the compelling novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird ”says, that sometimes you have to get inside of another person and walk around in his skin for awhile to see other points of view.  And so, may Leonard’s “brightness” rub off on all of us!

     Van Voris is extraordinary, as he always is in everything he does onstage.  The secret to playing an assortment of characters on the boards is to keep it simple but clean.  With only some essential props, a change in posture and voice and, perhaps, a costume piece, one actor can create a universe on an essentially bare stage.  The purest form of theatre may be storytelling, so an actor in such a situation must assume that posture.  Van Voris is just such an actor and is at the top of his game here.  Long may he reign!

     Horn, with some subtle but clever lighting changes for mood and setting (designer, Trevor Sargent) has created another intriguing play that both entertains and educates…the best of all worlds!  And, if you’re lucky enough to chat with him about Portland’s theatre history, you are indeed blessed, as he is a wealth of information, as well as having an array of books in his library for sale of related subjects.  Also, if you have info on the early days of Portland’s artistic history, you might want to contact him.
I highly recommend this show, especially for Van Voris.  

     If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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