*The Lifespan of a Fact,* 12/2/18
Before I get to my review, let me mention that I added photos to my review of *The White Album.* They weren't available when I first wrote the review, so I added them to my archive. Here's where to find it:
Reviews -> Theatre -> Plays -> S to Z -> *The White Album*
Richard and I saw *The Lifespan of a Fact* on Broadway on 12/2/18. The show has a complicated history: in 2003 John D'Agata was commissioned by *Harper's Magazine* to write an essay about the culture in Las Vegas. D'Agata wrote an essay called "What Happens There," focusing on the 2002 suicide of 16-year-old Levi Presley. *Harper's* decided not to publish the essay, and *The Believer* picked it up, publishing it in 2005. They sent young Harvard grad Jim Fingal to fact check the essay.
The fact-checking process became so heated and elaborate that D'Agata and Fingal decided to publish a book, *The Lifespan of a Fact,* to document their process and to convey the power struggle between the fact checker (who wants to make sure everything is accurate) and the author (who wants the essay to have a literary flow and convey his flavor as a writer). The book was published in 2012.
The play was written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell. I've heard of plays written by two people, and screenplays written by two to ten people, but it's rare to see a Broadway play written by three people. They crafted a play with three characters: Fingal (played by Daniel Radcliffe), D'Agata (played by Bobby Cannavale), and Fingal's editor (played by Cherry Jones).
I really enjoyed the play. It was laugh-out-loud funny and also profoundly moving. All three actors had great opportunities to shine and show off. Radcliffe had a monologue halfway through the show that stopped the show - - it's rare to get a break for applause in a play, and it's always a thrill. The structure of the play was beautifully worked out: from a personnel point of view, it only has three actors, but those three actors never appear together in the same room until two thirds of the way through the play, and then they're all onstage together until the end. From a dramatic point of view, the show starts with exposition and laughs, builds up to more laughs, and finishes with deep, heartfelt drama and compassion. You feel like you earn the compassion because you've grown to care about the characters and understand their agendas.
Radcliffe was marvelous, so strong and genuine and funny. I love that he's doing so much theatre, he could easily just do crappy movies - - or just sit at home (I hope he's got a lot of money in the bank, after spending most of his childhood playing Harry Potter). Cannavale was wonderfully thorny and intense, the perfect foil for Radcliffe. His raspy voice bothers me, but that's my issue. And Jones, I just love that woman. Such a wonderful balance of sincerity and stagecraft. She was the moral conscience of the play, and the peace maker between the two other characters. Hers was my favorite performance, she's one of our greatest actors. I want to see her every time she does a show.