BWW Review: THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT at TheaterWorks Hartford
In today's world of "fake news" and challenges to journalistic integrity, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell fact from fiction. Add in the desire to both entertain and inform readers (and sell publications) and it can be easy to see how, today, trust may be harder than ever to find in the printed word. But who defines what exactly constitutes a fact, and when, if ever, is it ok to bend the truth in service of telling an important story? These are some of the questions explored in THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT, a play by Jeremey Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell now playing at TheaterWorks in Hartford.
THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT, based on the book by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, tells the true(ish) story of the two authors - John D'Agata (Rufus Collins) a noted essayist and a young fact checker, Jim Fingal (Nick LaMedica) who is assigned to fact check John's latest essay by magazine editor Emily Penrose (Tasha Lawrence). Jim dives into the assignment with both feet and discovers numerous liberties taken by Mr. D'Agata in his essay focused on the death of a young man in Las Vegas. This thoroughly annoys the writer, and puts Emily in an awkward position - keep the piece as is and suspend journalistic integrity for the sake of art, or pull the piece and miss the opportunity to publish an important and potentially life changing essay. The action unfolds over a long weekend beginning with Jim's assignment all the way to the Monday printing deadline where all three characters find themselves at an unlikely impasse.
The play which unfolds quite quickly (80 minutes with no intermission) comically illustrates the two extremes of Mr. D'Agata and Mr. Fingal and the editor caught in between the conflict. Portraying the over-eager but skilled fact checker, Jim, Nick LaMedica is quite funny, especially in a number of scenes where the extent of his methods make themselves known. Having recently played the TheaterWorks stage in another quirky, yet funny role in HAND TO GOD, Mr. LaMedica brings Jim's idiosyncrasies to the stage in a fresh and hilarious way. As the essayist, John, Rufus Collins is aloof and unwavering in the importance of keeping his piece as is. Mr. Collins' portrayal is smart, eloquent and he effectively brings to life the stubborn D'Agata on stage. Rounding out the cast, Tasha Lawrence (Nora in TheaterWorks' recent A DOLL'S HOUSE PART 2) is equally strong as the focused, hard-hitting editor, Emily. Her attempts to keep John from strangling Jim (literally and figuratively) are hilarious and provide some of the highlights of the evening. And though the piece is funny it does have some extremely poignant and powerful moments, including one particularly effective scene focused on an important 48 seconds in the essay.
Tracy Brigden's direction is nimble and fast paced, creating tension and conflict quickly and effectively. She uses the small TheaterWorks stage effectively, including a creative use of projection(by Zachary Borovay) early in the play to reinforce the emails and texts between the characters. Speaking of staging, Brian Prather's set design is great, starting with Emily's stark and modern office and ending with the Las Vegas residence of Mr. D'Agata. Brian Bembridge's Lighting and Obadiah Eaves' Sound designs add effective layers to the experience.
Overall, TheaterWorks' THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT is a rare combination of thought-provoking subject matter conveyed with a comedic flair. It is fresh, funny, and entertaining and left this reviewer thinking about the true definition of "fact" and whether bending the truth for journalistic impact is ever ok.
THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT runs at TheaterWorks in Hartford, CT through March 8. TheaterWorks is located at 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT 06103. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30. For more information call 860-527-7838 or go to theaterworkshartford.com.
MID PHOTO: Tasha Lawrence