In adapting his YA novel Absolute Brightness — a tale, full of funny, familiar residents of a small Jersey town, about the disappearance of a flamboyant, apparently gay teen — for the stage, James Lecesne jettisoned some characters and added others. “It has to be varied, to keep people’s interest for 75 minutes,” he explains. “You can’t have too many people in the hair salon, right?” Then came voices and gestures “to encourage people to think about the uniqueness of each human being.” The accents and movements that distinguish detective from hairdresser from mob wife come from all corners of his life: his Hasbrouck Heights youth, summers at the shore, a stint in a play full of German characters. “I hear them speaking,” he says, “and then I work back.” (The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey just opened at the Westside Theatre.)
*This article appears in the July 13, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.