THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT presented Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Nov. 16. I attended the opening night performance. 

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JuCoby Johnson as Jim Fingal, Kate Rigg as Emily Penrose & David Whalen as John D’Agata. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

At what point does literary license become libel?

This argument is central to the plot of the thought-provoking play THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT running through Nov. 16 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

LIFESPAN follows the extreme and laugh out loud funny pursuit of the truth by young and over-achieving fact-checker Jim Fingal (JuCoby Johnson). Actor David Whalen (author Paul Sheldon in last season’s MISERY) returns as John D’Agata, a talented and respected old school wordsmith who argues the truth of his writing is not beholden to fact. Literally caught between the two is magazine editor Emily Penrose (Kate Rigg) who’s love for the written word is tempered by the realities of the struggling print industry in our online, click-obsessed, social media dominated world.

Director Wendy C. Goldberg displays a deft hand with her talented cast in tackling a show that is essentially three people talking…a lot. The humor of the script and the humanity of the three characters is brought to the forefront. It is not three people arguing to be right, but three individuals trying to do the best work they can.

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David Whalen as John D’Agata. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

Todd Rosenthal’s clever, two-sided set believable takes us from a New York skyscraper to suburban Las Vegas. It was also a wise move to not utilize the entire play area available.

There are some now-expected generational jokes and the fact-checking debate does briefly stall the forward momentum of the play, but on the other side is one of the most profound moments I’ve experienced in a theater. A perfect example of the power of the written word from the “pen” of a talented writer.


Kate Rigg as Emily Penrose & JuCoby Johnson as Jim Fingal. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

Nowadays any yahoo can start a blog and become a media influencer. The internet is full of people eager to nitpick and point out minuscule failings (like how did D’Agata’s elderly mother, who needed a walker to get around, manage to get herself up and down the stairs without a bedroom or bathroom on the first floor?).

But none can duplicate the investment of the opening night audience in those closing minutes of this play or the thoughtful discussion that follows after the stage goes dark.

My rating: 4.75 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.


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