Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 9, 2020

REVIEW: TheaterWorks, The Lifespan of a Fact,

TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through March 8, 2019
by Jarice Hanson

Every once in a while what is seen on stage mimics real-life so closely that an audience member feels it necessary to either laugh, or curl up in a fetal position. In the very clever, “The Lifespan of a Fact,” now playing at TheaterWorks, the emphasis is on the laughter, but the honesty of the theme does elicit some cringes. However, in the hands of a talented production team and three excellent actors, this play definitely resonates with today’s preponderance of “alternative facts,” “misinformation,” and “true-ishness.”

The plot is based on a true story involving an author and the young intern assigned to fact-check a 15-page magazine essay. The play uses the names of the real duo who engaged in the controversy which took place over a seven-year period, though the play compresses the time to five days. The writer, John D’Agata, played by Rufus Collins, and the intern, Jim Fingal, played by Nick LaMedica, are the odd couple who contrast in both appearance and belief. Though the script was adapted from the co-authored book by the real D’Agata and Fingal by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell, a third actor to play the fictional magazine editor, Emily Penrose, was added to heighten the contrasts among belief, journalism, honesty, and fictional interpretation of the “facts.” In this role, Tasha Lawrence has the difficult but very effective role of representing both the harried editor and the audience, all of whom are necessary to interpret the events as they fold into each other and the stakes are raised.

The pace of the 75-minute story continually builds to a suspenseful conclusion in part to Tracy Brigden’s wonderful direction as well as the skill of these actors who are fully committed to the difficult dialog and passion of the characters. Obadiah Eaves’ sound design incorporates split -second timing of cell phone and computer sounds to seemingly regulate the heart-beat of the piece reflecting the passage of time.

This show captures contemporary reality and reminds us that whether something is fact or fiction—there can be many ways to tell a story to make an impact. Each decision has weight and the ultimate interpretation, no matter how controlled, is less than certain. The humor in this play is sincere and honest, but the meaning is heavy and it packs a wallop. Kudos to this cast and production team for brilliantly interpreting a show of depth, in a way that reminds the audience every person plays a part in understanding the “facts.”