Review by Bryna Chandler
Take everything you know about facts, journalism, reporting, and even storytelling and throw it off the roof; now you have Falcon Theatre’s production of “Lifespan of a Fact”. Running from January 27 through February 11th at Falcon’s intimate theatre in Newport, KY, “Lifespan of a Fact” follows fresh-out-of-Harvard fact-checker Fingal, as he attempts to apply his skill to a groundbreaking, yet not quite a detail accurate piece by a legendary author, D’Agata.
Based on the true account of D’Agata’s 2003 essay “What Happens There”, the story follows the 2002 death of sixteen-year-old Levi Presley who died by suicide by jumping off of the Stratosphere Hotel. Whereas “What Happens There” focuses on the exploration of Las Vegas’ tourist-centered culture, “Lifespan of a Fact” concentrates on the themes of facts versus truth and the journalist effect of modern-day writing.
Even though the story is centered around a narrative meditation on suicide, the play is neither depressing nor somber. Director Ed Cohen does an impressive job of working with the sarcastic comedic elements of the piece to bring you a humorous, entertaining, and thought-provoking production. Cohen along with Ted J. Weil as sound designers helps fill the scene changes with just the perfect selection of music, transitioning the darkness in the progression of time and place.
In his Falcon Theatre debut, Christopher Wells plays Jim Fingal, the fresh-out-of-Harvard fact checker. Wells’ performance as an eager recent graduate trying to find his place within the journalistic world works in perfect contrast to the more artistic essayist John D’Agata, played by Jay Woffington. Wells in the role of Jim Fingal becomes the prosecutor, advocating competently for factual truth in the modern age where every fact can be easily googled.
Jay Woffington, another first-time Falcon Theatre actor, portrayal of essayist John D’Agata is a flawless counterpart to Wells’ methodical Fingal. Woffington effortlessly yet dramatically defends the use of emotional truth in such a believable manner, that during a few monologues, you find yourself transported to his Vegas apartment, rooting for the creative inaccurate elements.
Between these two polarizing characters, you have Emily Penrose, played by Susan Jung, as the editor of a prominent but sinking New York magazine. Emily Penrose realizes the beauty in D’Agata’s piece and sees it as a lifesaver for her once-award-winning publication. Emily is also evidently a professional executive who understands how it will look if she publishes a piece that is so factually incorrect. During the progression of the play, Emily devolves into more of a mother figure trying to put a stop to bickering brothers. More than once, you feel Emily’s frustration, pain, and secret alternative motives as she mediates a compromise between emotional truth and factual truth.
“Lifespan of a Fact” goes beyond the literary negotiations of accuracy versus art to explore a myriad of contrasting themes; accuracy versus truth, article versus essay, intern versus professional, and emotional versus factual truth. With such deft storytelling within the production by the team of Falcon Theatre, it is easy to understand why this intimate theatre has such loyal patronage. “Lifespan of a Fact” is playing at Falcon Theatre in Newport, KY on February 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 & 11 with productions all starting at 8 pm. Tickets available HERE.