Jack Stehlin’s steely performance is the point of interest in “More Lies About Jerzy,” a lightly fictionalized account of the life and career of author Jerzy Kosinski (1933-91), whose early acclaim was overshadowed by later controversy. Scribe Davey Holmes (“In Treatment”) never establishes a context enabling audiences to care about the man or understand the moral issues his story raises, but Stehlin is haunted enough to keep us watching.
The play barely opens before Kosinski, here called “Lesnewski,” is under attack on vaguely defined charges of plagiarism, stiffing an unacknowledged collaborator and fabricating Holocaust memories. As Jerzy rails, admirers defend him, and a crusading journalist (Adam Stein) pursues him for unexplained reasons, but all this talk fails to elucidate what’s at stake and the relationships remain as amorphous as the treatment of theme. “I write what I remember, and I remember what I write.” Nice line. But what does it explain or justify?
Under David Trainer’s helm, the cast shows little interest in endowing their roles with distinctive physical life. Thesps march on and off Laura Fine Hawkes’ awkward main platform in the same unvarying stiff-legged rhythm. (It’s often difficult to figure out which doubled character an actor is meant to be playing.)
The production shows the same inattention to detail of which Jerzy himself proudly boasts. A girlfriend’s salacious diary looks to be no more than 10 (blank) pages thick; the telephone has no cord; and not even the Polish characters seem to know the name is pronounced “YEH-zheh” (roughly rhyming with “pressure”), not like the state Frankie Valli is from.