by Shirley Lorraine
The Devil is in the Details
The bombardment of information is a daily and relentless state of being these days. From every direction we are fed tidbits, whole bits and teasers which may or may not be true. Therein lies the crux of the conflict in the Rubicon Theatre Company’s current production of The Lifespan of a Fact by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell based on a true-ish story by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal.
The show opens the Rubicon’s Silver Anniversary season with this premiere production mounted by the Fountain Theatre West Coast. Through a collaboration between the two theater companies, Ventura audiences can now enjoy this extraordinary work. All three of the actors, Ron Bottitta, Jonah Robinson and Inger Tudor, performed in the premiere production in Los Angeles and brought their roles to the Rubicon stage.
Writers can be finicky about the words they place on the page. They may use flexible criteria for their choices, as D’Agata (Bottitta) shares, for the sake of the story, its emotional impact and readability. Fact-checker intern Fingal (Robinson) takes his work seriously and seeks what he feels is the absolute truth in the facts. Editor (Tudor) wants a terrific story to pull her failing publication back into the limelight.
The three of them become engaged in a verbal battle as they each stand their ground for their viewpoint to be heard. The result is a fascinating in-depth discussion of detail, accuracy and facts versus story, emotion, and readable flow.
Fingal finds many tiny discrepancies in the facts as presented by D’Agata. Some are so small as a differing second of time in two different reports. The question becomes does that small difference bear enough weight to require changing? D’Agata says no, Fingal says yes. Both are right, and both are wrong.
The 90-minute discourse is presented without intermission. I and others in the audience were completely absorbed in the minutia of the discussion which raised so many questions to explore. Keeping in mind that every single person will have a different perspective on a situation depending on myriad factors, is it even possible to have a single accurate fact? Where does the point of compromise become more important than absolute accuracy? Is such a thing even possible? And to whom does it matter?
All three actors present viable arguments. The performances are exemplary, the writing is tight and introspective. This is a piece that sends the audience on a wild ride of internal “exploration of the creative process, journalistic integrity and the blurry boundaries between fact and fiction.”
The Rubicon has chosen an extraordinary work to open their 2023-2024 season. The Lifespan of a Fact will have you laughing, pondering and questioning everything you read, hear or see from this point forward. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
The Lifespan of a Fact continues with matinee and evening performances through October 21. www.rubicontheatre.org for all details.