Review: ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’ at Fountain Theatre in L.A.

Consensus has been been one of many chief casualties of Donald Trump’s calamitous presidency. What postmodernism began, a White House of “alternative facts” completed. We’re now all peering via relativistic lenses, accepting the fact that finest comports with our beliefs and pursuits.

The topic of reality and journalism has grown much more fraught since “The Lifespan of a Fact” appeared on Broadway in 2018. The play by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell was written earlier than “the big lie” precipitated the Jan. 6 rebel on the U.S. Capitol. Fox wasn’t but heading off a mammoth defamation lawsuit for promulgating Trump’s election deceits. Our democracy was definitely being examined, however our constitutional system didn’t appear to be holding on by mere threads.

The dire state of our polarized politics can’t assist however have an effect on how we view “The Lifespan of a Fact,” which is receiving its West Coast premiere on the Fountain Theatre below the course of Simon Levy. The play relies on a e book by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal that recounts their epic journalistic battle over the that means of reality.

In one nook is a literary essayist (D’Agata) who’s writing lyrically concerning the real-life tragedy of a younger man who jumped to his dying from the roof of a lodge in Las Vegas. In the opposite is a zealous younger fact-checker (Fingal) who is decided to not let the slightest error make it into the revealed piece.

The stakes are comparatively small scale, however the depth of the preventing is fierce. In combing via D’Agata’s 15-page essay, Fingal produces a 130-page spreadsheet of queries. Some are small. (Is the the lodge pavilion brick crimson or brown?) Others are extra consequential. (Did anybody else die by suicide in the identical manner that day in Las Vegas?)

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The two males argue over the precise variety of seconds it took Levi Presley to fall to his dying. D’Agata writes that it was 9 seconds however Fingal, citing the coroner’s report, insists that it was eight. Numbers for D’Agata aren’t essential in themselves. He’s extra attentive to symbolism, symmetry and the sound of syllables. Fingal is understandably aghast at this informal angle towards countable actuality.

The battle is ratcheted up for comedian impact. The play’s authors don’t take sides. D’Agata’s place is hardly defensible on literary grounds, however the obsessiveness of Fingal could make it appear that no piece of data can face up to his relentless scrutiny.

On Broadway, Daniel Radcliffe was like a fact-checker on a non secular mission. His Fingal was compelled to root out evil falsehoods of any measurement, even when his fanaticism ended his profession. Radcliffe’s gritty conviction tilted the play in Fingal’s favor.

At the Fountain, the theatrical contest shifts barely to D’Agata, because of the sturdy efficiency of Ron Bottitta. Amazed on the temerity of a mere intern to second guess his literary brilliance, Bottitta’s D’Agata treats Jonah Robinson’s Fingal like a pesky mosquito that has entered his residence thorough a gap in a display.

Actually, Fingal knocked on D’Agata’s door after flying in from New York. This journey wasn’t a part of the editorial plan. Fingal is panicked concerning the approaching deadline set by the journal’s editor, Emily Penrose (Inger Tudor). The project represents his huge break, and the Harvard grad acts like his very existence is using on the result.

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The scenic design by Joel Daavid conjures each the Midcentury Modern decor of D’Agata‘s Vegas home and the magazine’s trendy headquarters. Nicholas Santiago’s video design makes us aware of the varied types of written communication pingponging between New York and Nevada with elevated frenzy.

Tudor’s character is underwritten. (Not even the endlessly resourceful Cherry Jones might flip Penrose into an equal theatrical combatant within the Broadway manufacturing, which additionally starred Bobby Cannavale as D’Agata.) But Tudor appears a bit too honest and low-key for a formidable journal editor.

Robinson is completely persnickety as Fingal, who is aware of he’s unbearable however can’t assist himself. The character is awash in nervousness largely as a result of because the low man on the totem pole he doesn’t need to jeopardize his anticipated place within the skilled elite. But he additionally believes that with out correct data there might be no shared data.

Bottitta’s D’Agata is the whiskey-drinking frequent man who turns into imperious when anybody tries to tamper together with his work. His lordly indifference to information isn’t simple to justify, however as a number one determine within the literary nonfiction style, he claims to be in search of a reality greater than pedestrian journalism.

“The Lifespan of a Fact” could not appear all that consequential proper now, given every little thing that’s occurring. But this impression is itself a bit deceptive. Sweating the small particulars at a time when authoritarians are blurring the road between reality and fiction is pressing enterprise. But so too is reexamining our assumptions about these classes, which will not be as discrete as we expect.