It is the recent past, let's say within the last decade, and Emily Penrose, (Cherry Jones) who is editor of an unnamed magazine that needs a leg up, is eager to publish a story by John D’Agata (Bobby Cannavale). The story is beautifully written, and touches on a very sensitive subject, the suicide of a young man who jumped off of the 1,149-foot tower of the Stratosphere hotel in Vegas. Before... Read more
The Lifespan of a Fact
Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones & Bobby Cannavale return to the Great White Way to star in the world premiere of The Lifespan of a Fact, directed by Tony Award nominee Leigh Silverman.
The Lifespan of a Fact is based on the stirring true story of John d'Agata’s essay, “What Happens There,” about the Las Vegas suicide of teenager Levi Presley. Jim Fingal, assigned to fact check the piece, ignited a seven-year debate on the blurred lines of what passes for truth in literary non-fiction.
"Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?" as the old adage goes. And yes, that is the central dilemma of this 95-minute no intermission play that hurtles through a few crucial days in the lives of writer John d'Agata, fact-checker Jim Fingal and editor Emily Penrose. Two opposing ideologies collide in a battle of two stubborn and highly intellectual combatants, while we are forced to ask ourselves where we stand. Facts are facts and there is no evading them, according to Jim. Or can facts be manipulated if they artistically enhance the telling of the story, John poses. Anyone who has never told a lie has never told a good story… Emily resides as judge and jury over the proceedings and it will ultimately be her call whether to publish the essay or not, as we draw ever closer to the Monday morning deadline.
Now you think you know what to expect... A drama that solely consists of a heavily-armed debate of ethical ideals? Think again... The Lifespan of a Fact is so deliciously packed with comedy, it catches you off-guard and draws you in unknowingly. Daniel Radcliffe, in particular, shines brightly, showing off his uncanny ability for comic timing as the obsessive, terrier-like Jim. His exchanges with Bobby Canavale (as John), as he flies to Las Vegas to confront the writer in his own home, are priceless. From his deadpan facial expressions to his slightly awkward physicality opposite the much larger stature of Cannavale, Radcliffe is delivering a master class that is well worth the price of admission.
Cherry Jones is also perfectly cast as the voice of reason and the authority in the equation. She exudes a wealth of experience and credibility on the stage and manages to steer the ship steadily towards its conclusion; albeit a deliberately ambiguous one, as we, the audience, momentarily slip into her shoes.
This production has an air of slickness about it - from Lucy Mackinnon's ultra-modern timeline and email projections to Mimi Lien's seamlessly efficient sliding sets - and director Leigh Silverman's execution is always precise, in terms of the pacing and use of space. It is a rare occasion that a new play stages its world premiere directly on Broadway and on this occasion, no doubt aided by the star quality and appeal of its cast, it has been a resounding success. Let's hope that the lifespan of this play reaches past Studio 54 and out into the rest of the theatrical world.
Keep checking the facts and check out this splendid cast of actors in The Lifespan of a Fact.
(Photos by Peter Cunningham)
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Jim Fingal has a small job: to fact check articles for one of the best magazines in the country. Jim Fingal’s boss has given him a big assignment: apply his skill to a groundbreaking piece by legendary author John D’Agata. And now, Jim Fingal has a huge problem: John made up some of his article. Well, a lot of his article. OK, actually, maybe the majority of it? What starts professional quickly becomes profane as one question rises to the surface: Can Jim Fingal ever just shut the fact up?