Truth or Consequences / 'Lies' gets real about a writer named Jerzy

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW

MORE LIES ABOUT JERZY. By Davey Holmes, directed by Darko Tresnjak. With

Jared Harris, Gretchen Egolf, Lizbeth Mackay, Daniel London, Boris McGiver. Set

by Derek McLane, costumes by Linda Cho, lights by Frances Aronson, sound by

Laura Grace Brown. Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15th St., Manhattan. Seen at

Thursday's preview.

THE SET FOR Davey Holmes' new play, "More Lies About Jerzy," is a shifting

landscape of sliding panels decorated with smudged newsprint and translucent

windows. At its best, the play, in a production that opened last night at the

Vineyard Theatre, offers a smart, complicated look at a self-made celebrity for

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whom history, identity and reality are as blurry and flexible as Derek

McLane's evocative set design.

Playwright Davey Holmes, a promising newcomer receiving his first

production, has based his story loosely on the life of Jerzy Kosinski, the

Polish �migr� and writer ("The Painted Bird," "Being There") who died in 1991.

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Holmes has renamed his protagonist (he's called Jerzy Lesnewski in the play)

and condensed events into a single year (1972), but the basics of Lesnewski's

story echo Kosinski's. Jerzy leads the life of an intellectual playboy until

his reputation is undermined when a reporter discovers that Jerzy's memoir of a

Holocaust childhood is composed as much of fiction and borrowed stories as it

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is of autobiography.

The play-a collage of scenes and monologues gracefully staged, for the most

part, by director Darko Tresnjak-surrounds Jerzy with an array of characters

who seek some sort of truth from a man who constantly reinvents himself to

achieve a desired effect.

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As Arthur, the journalist investigating Jerzy's questionable stories,

Daniel London believably plays his character's intellect off his gangly

insecurity. Arthur's fact-checker, Georgia (Gretchen Egolf in a winning,

forthright performance), begins a different quest for truth when she becomes

romantically entangled with Jerzy.

Playing Jerzy's friend, assistant and former lover, Lizbeth Mackay gives a

solid portrayal of a character who never seems quite as important as Holmes

believes she is. And as a childhood acquaintance of Jerzy, Boris McGiver is

precise and touching.

Jared Harris plays Jerzy as a cocky showman with seductive physical

confidence. He's best-as is the play - during the evening's first half, when

you begin to suspect there's nothing at all behind the veils of Jerzy's half-

truths.

What makes Jerzy so compelling is his refusal to be pinned down to an

oversimplified historical fact. It's a disappointment, then, when the

playwright insists on doing just that, reducing Jerzy's complex relationship to

storytelling down to a single scary chain of events from Jerzy's youth.

Watching the revelation of Jerzy's guilt is far less interesting than

watching Jerzy manipulate our own guilt, as he wriggles out of potentially

difficult situations by brazenly bringing up his status as a Holocaust

survivor. Eventually it becomes clear that every character's story might be

colored by fictionalized flourishes. It's too bad that Holmes felt compelled to

include the truth about Jerzy in "More Lies About Jerzy," because it's all

those masterfully crafted lies that give his play such intelligence and texture.

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