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
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
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.
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
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.
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-
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.