Theater

The Lifespan of a Fact

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Into this era of "alternative facts" and "fake news" comes the hilarious Broadway play The Lifespan of a Fact. It's a smart and thoughtful reflection on just what is and is not true. Daniel Radcliffe plays obsessive intern fact-checker Jim Fingal; Cherry Jones portrays fierce magazine editor Emily Penrose; and Bobby Cannavale is egotistical essayist John D'Agata. All three turn in star performances.

Fingal is tasked with fact-checking D'Agata's 15-page essay on the suicide of a Las Vegas teenager. He generates 130 pages of queries the weekend before the magazine goes to publication. "I'm not interested in accuracy; I'm interested in truth," declares D'Agata. But what is truth if it is not based on facts?

The three eventually convene at D'Agata's home, where both physical and intellectual fights break out. The play by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell is based on a book of the same name by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal. (Yes, this strange premise is based on a real-life fact-checking conflict over an article that appeared in The Believer.) Playwright Kareken worked as a policy analyst for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. As the nation grapples with the same maddening questions of how verifiable facts fit into our understanding of life, you will not regret seeing this play, and that's a fact.

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