REVIEWS

REVIEWS of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey at American Blues Theater


Conor McShane, PerformInk - Highly Recommended
"...The principal reason to see this play (among the many) is the masterclass in acting that is Joe Foust’s performance. Often switching between several characters in the same scene, he’s riveting to watch. Though Foust is alone onstage, that doesn’t mean he has to carry the whole story himself. Director Kurt Johns–no stranger to solo theater, having co-founded SoloChicago Theatre–manages the disparate tones with ease, allowing the comic and the tragic to live together without one overwhelming the other. ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS is a great example that truly all you need to make good theatre is a talented actor to tell a movingly human story."

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Mary Shen Barnidge, Windy City Times - Highly Recommended
"...Is this a whodunit, then? Is it a hagiographical account of another martyr in the chronicles of gay history, an inspirational sermon on the healing powers arising from tragedy, or a lesson in the evils of intolerance? Whatever label you affix to this 75-minute monologue is up to you, of course, but what is undeniable is the wholesale commitment that Foust bestows on each of his diverse personae, rendering their individual attributes so distinctive that, at the moment of crisis, we need only hear the messenger's voice to identify the bearer of the final clue resolving the mystery."

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Albert Williams, Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended
"...In this engaging work of theatrical storytelling, originally performed off-Broadway by Lecesne himself, ABT ensemble member Joe Foust portrays multiple roles under Kurt Johns's astute direction.The burly Foust illustrates his multiple characters with deftly chosen gestures and vocal inflections, aided by the imaginative contributions of designers Grant Sabin (set), G. "Max" Maxin IV (visual projections), and Eric Backus (sound and music)."

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Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended
"...What's so seductively marvelous about Joe Foust's one-man turn through James Lecesne's bittersweet play "The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey," currently in production at American Blues Theater, is not simply the actor's ability to sustain a complicated narrative alone on the stage. What's absolutely magical is Foust's blink-of-an-eye transformations from one fully formed character into another, each new persona as distinctive, empathic and credible as the last."

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Alan Bresloff, Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended
"...This is seventy-five minutes of story-telling and is done by one actor, Joe Faust, who I must say, truly shines in bringing the entire cast of players to the front. Yes, he plays them all for us. No costume changes, no set changes, just a combination of props (Mary O’Dowd) , projections ( G. “Max” Maxin IV) and solid direction by Kurt Johns, who has become the “master of the solo show”, in my book...While the script is sensational and inspiring, it is the direction of Johns and the personalities of Foust ( yes he shows us many during this wonderful story) that truly make one feel that this may be one of the best 75 minutes ever spent in a theater."

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Amanda Finn, NewCity Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Foust is a dynamo in a show like this. His ability to wholly embody different characters from one second to the next is perfectly suited for a show demanding a character actor extraordinaire. There are a few, albeit gimmicky, props to add to the fantasy, but Foust hardly needs them to introduce an audience to the menagerie of fascinating small town folk...To call “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” a solo play is almost like saying that Moisés Kaufman dabbles in Tectonic Theater...Nevertheless, the play feels like a film noir-docudrama hybrid...Stage 773 became respite from the bitterness of early spring. And even in the show’s darkest moments, Foust’s performance was enough to inspire struggling stars in the night sky to shine brighter."

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Hedy Weiss, WTTW - Highly Recommended
"...But it is Foust’s effortless storytelling skills, comic sensibility and emotional range that seal the deal and bring Leonard Pelkey back to life through others’ perceptions...Foust (deftly directed by Kurt Johns, who has overseen several other solo shows, including the hit “Churchill”), vividly portrays each of them, using little more than shifts in body language, vocal timbre and accents, bits of costumes to nail their personalities, and to suggest both the tragic and comic aspects of their lives."

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Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended
"Currently this solo production is being presented under the sensitive direction of Kurt Johns. It stars one of Chicago’s finest actors, talented American Blues ensemble member, Joe Foust. Without makeup, wigs or costume changes, Mr. Foust makes a complete onstage transformation, becoming every character in this play....In this single performance, playing dozens of touching, often humorous, three-dimensional characters, Joe Foust dazzles as never before. It’s in this gifted thespian’s performance, set in the intimate venue of Stage 773, that the true absolute brightness of this whodunit tale really shines."

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Ed Tracy, PicksInSix- Highly Recommended
"...In a small town on the New Jersey shore, a story unfolds–Case #3684599, otherwise known as James Lecesne’s “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey”–about the disappearance of a 14-year-old boy as told by the detective who worked on the case, Chuck DeSantis, and an ensemble of eight other characters, all played by one actor. American Blues Theater’s Chicago premiere production is directed by Kurt Johns and showcases the talented Joe Foust as the singular storyteller in the crisp 90-minute drama now playing at Stage 773."

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Anne Spiselman, Hyde Park Herald - Highly Recommended
"...The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” is an anomaly. Although the one act play is about a horrific hate crime, we’re left feeling full of hope for humanity. It’s also a solo show, but we never see the title character...the 75-minute play is enjoying an engrossing Chicago premiere thanks to versatile actor Joe Foust, sensitive director Kurt Johns, and a savvy design team. I’m not normally a big fan of one-person shows, but in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, Foust vividly brings to life the people of a town on the Jersey shore and how they respond to a tragedy, as well as a boy who, as DeSantis points out, took Polonius’ main precept to heart."

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Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune- Somewhat Recommended
"...There is much to like in this Chicago production, including some smart choices from the director Kurt Johns, an experienced hand at solo work, the comedic richness of Foust's characterizations and a lovely jewel-box like setting from Grant Sabin."

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