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More Lies About Jerzy

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Unscrupulous literary figures have long been present in our world. A few years ago, author James Frey was granted Oprah Winfrey's imprimatur for his so-called memoir, A Million Little Pieces. Soon afterward it was discovered that Frey's work would be more aptly titled A Million Little Falsehoods. Indeed, Pieces was made more of figments of Frey's imagination than anything having to do with the facts of his life. Ms. "O" was so incensed by the disclosure that she called Frey to task on her nationally syndicated television program. But before that Jayson Blair, a reporter for The New York Times, was caught manufacturing his stories from whole-cloth for his prestigious employer. And prior to Blair there was Clifford Irving, who claimed to have letters from the reclusive millionaire, Howard Hughes, proving that the mogul had written an autobiography. The letters were later proven to be forgeries.

One of the more complex and intriguing instances of possible literary fraud centers on Jerzy Kosinski, a Polish immigrant to the United States, who wrote the novel The Painted Bird. Though the book received some critical acclaim, one scholar suggests that "for years Kosinski passed off 'The Panted Bird' as the true story of his own experience during the Holocaust." What's more, The Painted Bird was banned in Kosinski's native Poland, and allegations of plagiarism were aimed at Kosinski's published efforts.

Jump to 2001. Playwright Davey Holmes gets his drama--More Lies About Jerzy--produced Off-Broadway. It's the fictionalized theatricalization of Jerzy Kosinski's peak-to-valley later life. A New York Times review described the play as "a work of admirable ambition." Now, at last, More Lies About Jerzy has come to Southern California--brought here by Circus Theatricals and showing at Los Angeles' Hayworth Theatre, through July 31.

This Jerzy is a leaner, more minimalist production than the New York iteration (kudos to Laura Fine Hawkes simple set-design and to Roger Bellon's original music), and that makes this version seem somehow more admirable and less ambitious. Staged by David Trainer--getting the most out of the least in this intimate theater space--Jerzy tells the tale of Jerzy Lesnewski (the name is changed as a dramatic license) in a fast (90 minutes, without intermission) nonlinear fashion. We learn of the disputes in which Jerzy has become embroiled; we witness his womanizing and tale-spinning; we hear his rationalizations. Still, we ponder the truth beneath Jerzy's pragmatism and utilitarian view-of-reality. Do we write it because we believe it? Or do we believe it because we wrote it? In Jerzy's case, he believes he has written, and that's enough for him. No further introspection is required on his part as far as he's concerned.

As a period piece Jerzy is woven into the post-war, Cold War era; the situation couldn't possibly be placed at another time. As a psychological profile, Jerzy is a singular and unique case, which may never recur.

As Jerzy, Jack Stehlin is volatile, charming, and smart. Stehlin's is a crafty portrayal of a character who is often projecting a character himself. Stehlin allows us to become fascinated and then infatuated with Jerzy's creative amorality.

Supported by a resolute cast, some playing multiple roles (Jordon Lund, Kristin Malko, Neil V. Pond, Cameron Meyer, Adam Stein, and Chet Grissom), this "Jerzy" provides a tour de force opportunity for Jack Stehlin. He does not disappoint. The other actors are called upon for grace, grounding, and professionalism. They each succeed commendably. We patrons are also called upon to examine our own criteria for truth. Perhaps that's what's most disturbing about this nuclear age polemic: It asks us to ask, what is truth? And that's unnerving.

"More Lies About Jerzy" continues at The Hayworth Theatre--2511 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles--through July 31. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. (no performance July 2 and 3). For reservations, dial (323) 960 - 7788. For online ticketing, visit www.CircusTheatricals.com/Tickets.html.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.