Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

The Lifespan of a Fact
Lantern Theater Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's review of Clyde's

Trevor William Fayle, Joanna Liao,
and Ian Merrill Peakes

Photo by Mark Garvin
The Lifespan of a Fact is an engaging and thought-provoking drama based on a true story. But what exactly does the phrase "based on a true story" mean? How much do the famous writer and fact checker on stage have in common with real life authors John D'Agata and Jim Fingal? How much of the story needs to be true for the phrase to apply? These are exactly the sorts of questions that The Lifespan of a Fact, now making its Philadelphia premiere at Lantern Theater Company, compels us to ask.

In the play, Jim Fingal (Trevor William) is the enthusiastic but inexperienced fact checker for a piece written by renowned journalist John D'Agata (Ian Merrill Peakes). Fingal's job is to clear the piece for publication before the rapidly approaching publication deadline. Fingal's boss, veteran editor Emily Penrose (Joanna Liao), is eager to see the superlative essay published. Everyone is thrown for a loop when Fingal finds factual errors beginning in the very first sentence of the story. Lots of errors. Together Fingal, D'Agata, and Penrose must struggle to figure out exactly how much the truth can be stretched before it breaks.

The issues raised by The Lifespan of a Fact are interesting and undeniably pertinent. Director Matt Pfeiffer's keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace. The talented trio play off of each other with a crackling energy. William and Liao have fantastic chemistry and Peakes is infuriatingly intransigent as D'Agata. The small ensemble delivers some devastating exchanges and a lot of truly funny moments.

Unfortunately, there is not enough conflict to make the play compelling. Perhaps the problem is that no one disputes the conclusion that D'Agata's non-fiction essay is filled with false and unsupported claims. Or maybe the issue is that neither Liao or Peaks seem desperate enough to force publication. For whatever reason, the outcome never seems in question so the stakes do not feel very high.

Despite this unfortunate limitation, The Lifespan of a Fact is ultimately a well-acted and entertaining drama. You may want to check it out for yourself. After all, it could be is treacherous to rely on someone else's interpretation of the facts.

The Lifespan of a Fact runs through March 5, 2023, at St. Stephen's Theater, 923 Ludlow Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit or call the Lantern Box Office at 215-829-0395.

Trevor William Fayle as Jim Fingal
Joanna Liao as Emily Penrose
Ian Merrill Peakes as John D'Agata

Creative Team:
Director: Matt Pfeiffer
Dirk Durossette: Scenic Designer
Kelly Myers: Costume Designer
Amanda Jensen: Lighting Designer
Chris Sannino: Sound Designer
Michael Long: Projection Designer
Patrick Reilly: Assistant Director