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Saturday, September 22, 2018

THE LIFESPAN of a FACT a Strident New Play with Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale

"Alternative facts" is a phrase coined by Kellyanne Conway to corroborate the exaggerated attendance to Trump's inauguration.  Alternative facts are a.k.a. falsehoods, untruths and delusions.  THE LIFE of a FACT is an absurdist comedy that is alternatively brilliant, prescient and profound.  Co-Playwrights Gordon Farrell, Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell based the play on the original essay/book by John D'Agata & Jim Fingal.  The play contemplates humorously & solemnly what's essential for journalism fact checking.  The lines between journalism & storytelling remain enigmatic.  An editor, veteran writer and young intern for a magazine banter arduously & meticulously over detailed minutia on an article (or "essay") written by venerated contributor John (Bobby Cannavale).   Emily short staffed & under siege calls up rookie intern Jim (Daniel Radcliffe) and assigns him to fact check John's submitted piece before it goes to press early Monday morning.  Emily claims John is a fine writer but prone to taking artistic licenses.  John is instructed to merely verify name spellings & locations.  Jim doesn't want to miss a thing with this opportunity.  The "article" written by John is about the suicide of a young boy, Levi Pressly who jumped to his death from a building in Las Vegas.  Sadly, Levi has left the building and this world.  Jim's initial temerity turns into the tenacity of a pit bull.  Jim takes issue with details that derail from substantive significance & everyone's patience.  Jim flies to Las Vegas from NYC without authorization to clarify so many statements directly from John that it becomes absurd & infuriating.  Emily flies out to help negotiate the editing & fact checking after John informs her Jim has burrowed himself into his home.  John has written an essay of Levi's death in the context of what occurred that day.  He argues with Jim that facts are negotiable for the embellishment and priority of the story.  It's self evident that fake news is a major contention for society, the media & the president.  Fallacies in reporting can be benign misinformation or dangerous misleading propaganda.  Emily reads John's writing out loud for a final joint editing.  The article/essay/obit. reads with impact & poignancy.  Much of what Jim had bickered with John is irrelevant.  John had shown his essay of Levi's suicide to his mother & received her approval.  But knowingly fabricated a fact serves to embellish Levi's short life while  diminishing  the life of another teen who committed suicide the same day.  Despite questioning all the facts the question of why Levi took his own life is never investigated.  There are multiple sides to truth & varying priorities to storytelling.  Farrell's amusing examination of exaggeration or alternative facts makes THE LIFESPAN of a FACT an impactful play that resonates long after the curtain falls.

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