The Lifespan of a Fact starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale in a limited 16 week engagement. Closing in January

//The Lifespan of a Fact starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale in a limited 16 week engagement. Closing in January
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The Lifespan of a Fact starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale in a limited 16 week engagement. Closing in January

The cast of The Lifespan of a Fact includes stage & screen favorite Daniel Radcliffe (as Jim Fingal), two-time Tony Award winner Cherry Jones (as Emily) and two-time Tony Award nominee Bobby Cannavale (as John D’Agata).

They’re Broadway’s new odd couple: an eager-beaver fact-checker and an arrogant author who treats the truth like Silly Putty.

That’s the setup for “The Lifespan of a Fact,” the so-so sitcom that opened Thursday and whose biggest bragging right is bringing Daniel Radcliffe back to Broadway for the fourth time in 10 years. With Harry Potter now in his rearview, the 29-year-old English actor has proven himself a pro, whether tackling drama (“Equus,” “The Cripple of Inishmaan”), a musical (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) and, now, comedy.

The former boy wizard is on his game here as Jim Fingal, a magazine intern recruited by a top editor, Emily (Cherry Jones), to confirm the accuracy of an article by John D’Agata (Bobby Cannavale). John is a writer who prizes style above facts, and he won’t be questioned about those — least of all by a lowly drone.

Sparks fly against a looming print deadline (running it online apparently isn’t an option) and a dilemma: Can Emily release the story, about a Las Vegas suicide, riddled with inaccuracies?

The play is adapted from a 2012 book by the real D’Agata and Fingal, based on their five-plus-year back-and-forth correspondence about the Sin City saga and the gap between facts and poetic license. You don’t have to squint to see the connection to today’s conversations about fake news and misleading memoirs like “A Million Little Pieces.”

Truth-telling is a worthy subject, if potentially academic and, in the case of “Lifespan,” a bit inside publishing. Realizing that, playwrights Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell ratcheted up the stakes by pruning the timeline to five days for a thriller-like framework. The verbal volleys can be fun, but some of the action seems silly and contrived: When Jim somehow ends up hiding in a closet, it’s like something out of a “Three’s Company” episode. More vexing is that the show expects us to accept John’s story as a timely, topical game-changer. But why? It’s about a boy’s suicide in a soulless city. Sad, but not groundbreaking..

Jim is the most fleshed-out character. As he morphs from earnest to rabidly overzealous, a bearded, bed-headed Radcliffe delivers a deft, deliciously sly comic performance. Alongside Cannavale’s strapping John, he looks puny, an underdog in every way.

Cannavale has less to work with, but digs deep and gets beyond John’s puffy self-importance to find something poignant.

Jones, ever indispensable, adds heaps of humor as the voice of reason. That’s something we need more of — and that’s a fact.

Daniel Radcliffe shot to fame, of course, as the title character in the “Harry Potter” movie franchise. He made his Broadway debut as Alan Strang in the 2008 revival of Equus and returned to Broadway to star as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011 and as Billy Claven in The Cripple of Inishmaan in 2014, earning Drama Desk Award nominations for all three performances. He was last seen on the New York stage in 2016, making his off-Broadway debut in the Public Theater’s production of Privacy. His West End credits include EquusThe Cripple of Inishmaan, and the Old Vic’s 2017 revival of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead.

Cherry Jones won Tony Awards for her performances in Doubt in 2005 and The Heiress in 1995. She also earned Tony nominations for The Glass Menagerie (2014), A Moon for the Misbegotten (2000), and Our Country’s Good (1991). Her other Broadway credits include Mrs. Warren’s ProfessionFaith HealerImaginary FriendsMajor BarbaraThe Night of the IguanaAngels in AmericaMacbeth and Stepping Out.

Bobby Cannavale earned his Tony Award nominations for The Motherf*cker with the Hat in 2011 and Mauritius in 2008. He has since appeared on the Great White Way as Richard Roma in the 2012 revival of Glengarry Glen Ross and as Charlie Castle in the 2013 revival of The Big Knife.


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By |October 17th, 2018|Theater|0 Comments

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