Lifespan of a Fact – Review by Tom Holehan

Facts are at a premium in “The Lifespan of a Fact”, the timely new play by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, currently inspiring post-show conversation in a winning production at TheaterWorks in Hartford. The play is as up-to-the-minute as the latest CNN poll.

Based on a “true-ish” story, “The Lifespan of a Fact” details the battle-of-wills between eager young fact checker Jim Fingal (Nick LaMedica) and acclaimed essayist John D’Agata (Rufus Collins). Jim has been assigned by his no-nonsense editor, Emily Penrose (Tasha Lawrence), to fact check D’Agata’s latest essay, a moving chronicle about a young man’s suicidal leap from a Las Vegas hotel. Jim takes the job seriously and soon has several issues with D’Agata’s loose relationship with the truth and “facts” like the number of strip clubs in the city or the color of the hotel bricks. The more he unravels half-truths and embellishments, the more defensive D’Agata becomes. Penrose, meanwhile, is caught in the middle and on a looming deadline for the publication of what she considers a remarkable piece of writing.

In a brisk, 80-minute running time gracefully directed by Tracy Brigden, the cast of three work beautifully together bringing wit and sincerity to the snappy dialogue and intelligent banter. The script offers no easy answers as it argues over the value of artistic expression compared with the actual truth of events. Where is the line drawn and does it even ever have to be drawn? The characters’ debate takes on extra resonance given the current political climate where the free press has been scorned as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people”.

Taking on roles that were originally created last season by a starry Broadway cast (Cherry Jones, Daniel Radcliff and Bobby Cannavale), the TheaterWorks company easily rises to the challenge. Although his character quirks seemed forced during the play’s opening moments, LaMedica soon relaxes into the role of the hyper yet ethical magazine intern delivering a polished, energetic performance. He is matched line-for-line by his co-stars with Lawrence the definition of crisp professionalism in the face of male aggression and Collins, whose brutish egotism masks a lonely existence. The three actors are simply matchless together.

Brian Prather’s functional set design includes Emily’s polished office and D’Agata’s homey, lived-in Las Vegas abode. Brian Bembridge’s lighting and Zachary Borovay’s projections are also of top quality. “The Lifespan of a Fact” is, in all, very well served in Hartford.

“The Lifespan of a Fact” continues at TheaterWorks through March 8. For ticket reservations or further information call: 860.527.7838 or visit: www.twhartford.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor and resident critic of WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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