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The Lifespan of a Fact starring Daniel Radcliffe review at Studio 54, New York – ‘punchy performances’

This new play about a fact-checking dispute at a magazine feels incredibly timely.

Exploring the relationship between fact and fiction, journalism and the truth, The Lifespan of a Fact is inspired by a real-life contretemps. Three first-time Broadway playwrights, Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, have adapted the book of the same name for the stage. While slender in concept, the resulting production is frequently funny and benefits from rich performances from its cast.

Jim Fingal, a fact-checking intern played by Daniel Radcliffe, butts heads with writer John D’Agata (Bobby Cannavale) over the accuracy of D’Agata’s non-fiction essay about a teenager who killed himself. Refereeing their blowout is editor Emily (Cherry Jones).

There’s a David and Goliath element to all of this, with the inexperienced Fingal facing down a powerful editor and a writer who wants him to compromise his principals.

The performances of all three are punchy and assured. They make us feel the dramatic stakes. A scruffy Radcliffe is twitchy but bright-eyed and eager as Fingal, a man who is stronger than he lets on. He brings a straight man’s sense of timing to his delivery. Cannavale brings a sense of existential exhaustion to his character along with a blowhard’s arrogant exterior. Jones also provides a distinctive energy despite being saddled with an underwritten character.

Director Leigh Silverman’s production initially feels somewhat laborious and antiseptic though, a quality enhanced by the design, with its glass panels, projected emails, and a heavy-handed soundscape of ticking clocks. But when these projections give way to an ageing Las Vegas home with faded wallpaper and 1970s green carpeting, the humanity at the heart of this intellectual battle shines through.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead starring Daniel Radcliffe – review at the Old Vic, London [1]

Verdict
Sizzling debate about journalistic ethics with punchy performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Bobby Cannavale

Production

Production
The Lifespan of a Fact
Venue
Studio 54'
City
New York
Starts
September 20, 2018
Ends
January 13, 2019
Press night
October 18, 2018
Adaptation
Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell
Director
Leigh Silverman
Set
Mimi Lien
Lighting
Jen Schriever
Sound
Palmer Hefferan
Costume
Linda Cho
Stage manager
Martha Donaldson
Cast includes
Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale
Producer
Jeffrey Richards, Norman and Deanna Twain, Will Trice, Barbara H Freitag et al
Running time
1hr 35mins