The Lifespan of a Fact is a timely play about the power of “alternative facts” and what happens in a society where people play fast and loose with the truth. Written by playwrights Jeremy Kereken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, it’s based on the seven-year dispute between magazine writer John D’Agata and fact-checker Jim Fingal.
D’Agata (played by Bobby Cannivale) pens an essay about the suicide of a young man. The editor, Emily (Cherry Jones), wants to fast-track the article, and assigns Fingal (Daniel Radcliffe), an intern, to check the facts. He immediately finds discrepancies. A debate ensues, in which D’Agata defends his right to write with hyperbole regardless of the truth or facts, in the name of what writer Tim O’Brien called the difference between “story-truth” and “happening-truth,” and Fingal says he’s ignoring his ethical and moral responsibility.
The 95-minute play, at Studio 54, is engagingly well acted, and director Leigh Silverman adroitly brings together the issues of truth, fact, and questionable news dramatically and with humor.
This is an important play that mirrors today’s political atmosphere. The bombs mailed to outspoken critics of the President and the murder of worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue are symptoms of the problems this play tackles, the conflicts between fact and innuendo, truth and falsehoods.