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“The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” Opens PURE Theatre’s 19th Season



Press Release

PURE Theatre launches Season 19 with the South Carolina premiere of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by James Lecesne. The special engagement at the Dock Street Theatre will include live, in-person performances September 29th through October 8th.

The short but sweet hour-long production is rich with local color and unforgettable characters. Chuck DeSantis, a no-bull detective working his slow beat in a small town down the Jersey shore, suddenly finds himself in the center of a high-profile investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Leonard Pelkey, a luminous force of nature whose magic is only truly appreciated after he goes missing.

PURE Core Ensemble member David Mandel portrays all nine characters spotlighted during the investigation—ranging from teenagers to seniors—all of them deeply impacted by Leonard . . . and most of them from New Jersey.

“If we just read the official synopsis of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, it tells us all we need to know about the power of this play because it talks about all of the positive effects one person can have on others, just by their pure commitment to being themselves. I love that. I love the idea that we, just as we are, are enough,” says Sharon Graci, PURE Theatre’s co-founding Artistic Director and the production’s director.

“Season 19’s tagline is ‘Emergence’ because all of the plays in the season explore this process of coming into being or becoming prominent. The characters we meet in Leonard Pelkey are all pulled toward Leonard’s bright light, compelled to follow suit and to find the parts of themselves that are brave enough to emulate his shining example. It’s just hopeful and lovely.”

The play will be performed solo by PURE Core Ensemble Member David Mandel, who has been with PURE Theatre since 2004, acting in True West (2004 & 2019), Straight White Men, Citizen: An American Lyric, Glengarry Glen Ross, Outside Mullingar, Russian Transport, Penelope, Clybourne Park, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Time Stands Still, Race, AWOL, Low Country Boil, Killer Joe, The Last Five Years, the one-man show Thom Pain (based on nothing), This Is How It Goes, A Number, American Buffalo, The Beauty Queen of Leenane (2004 & 2016), The Seafarer, and Jesus Hopped the “A” Train. He directed PURE’s productions of Annapurna and Grace. Before PURE, he worked three seasons with New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, spent a year as a resident actor with the George Street Playhouse, and performed in various Los Angeles venues including the MET Theatre, HBO Workspace, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles Theatre Center, and the Egyptian Arena Theatre. David also serves as PURE’s associate artistic director, resident photographer, and graphic designer. He is a graduate of Drew University’s theatre arts program with minors in writing and literature.

Playwright James Celeste Lecesne, who as of 2020 goes by Celeste Lecesne, is an American actor, author, screenwriter, and LGBT rights activist best known for their screenplay of the Academy-award-winning short film Trevor. They have written several books, including Absolute Brightness and Virgin Territory, and they are also active in the entertainment industry as an actor and producer.

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey’s creative team includes PURE Artistic Director Sharon Graci as Director, Richard Heffner as Scenic and Lighting Designer, Janine McCabe as Costume Designer, and Miles Boinest as Stage Manager and Sound Designer.

The show will run from September 29 through October 8 at the historic Dock Street Theatre. Tickets can be purchased through PURE Theatre’s website at or through the box office at 843.723.4444. The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is also included as part of the PURE All-Access Flex Pass, PURE Theatre’s annual subscription that includes tickets to all of the productions and special performances planned for Season 19 at a discounted price. Ticket buyers are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets early, as seating is limited.

Protocols related to COVID-19 will be available at and are subject to change based on local case numbers and City of Charleston, DHEC, CDC, and others. PURE Theatre strongly encourages all who are eligible to wear masks, and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Additional information about The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey and the All-Access Flex Pass can be found on PURE’s website at or by calling the box office at 843.723.4444 (Monday through Friday (9am-12pm or two hours before shows).

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