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Facts are something that many might argue are in very short supply in the fabric of today’s society. Between politicians spouting “alternative” facts, and the ease with which the internet allows anybody with an opinion to appear knowledgeable – despite knowing nothing about the subject at hand – the question arises: Just how important are facts in getting a point across?
Luckily for us, “The Lifespan of a Fact,” now playing at the Las Cruces Community Theatre, does not delve into politics, and the internet is barely mentioned. Instead, we are given a glimpse into the nature of creativity, and how far a writer can go to “create” a story worth telling. It’s a fascinating topic, with no easy answer, and this production of the Broadway hit is unflinchingly on point under the able direction of Dustin Wright.
A.J. Tumminaro brings a vibrant energy to the role of magazine intern Jim Fingal, who is assigned the onerous task of fact-checking the work of established essayist John D’Agata, here played with measured exasperation and superb comic timing by veteran actor Norman Lewis. The fact that D’Agata has a tendency to play fast and loose with the facts is the catalyst that brings the two very different viewpoints into stark relief.
What starts out as a simple assignment quickly becomes a battle of wills between a young man trying to make a name for himself and a respected writer with decades of experience and an ego to match. What Lewis and Tumminaro bring to the roles is a delightful interplay that showcases the characters’ fiery passion for the truth, despite having very different ideas of just exactly what that might be. It isn’t often that we get to see this kind of chemistry on stage, but it is exciting when it happens.
Completing the dynamic trio is accomplished actress Nora Brown, who brings tenacity and grit to the tough-as-nails magazine editor Emily Penrose, the instigator who inadvertently brings the two men together, only to find herself playing referee. Emily’s almost perfunctory decision to saddle Jim with a looming deadline and a disdainful egotist quickly devolves into an unexpected trip to Las Vegas for a showdown between three strong-willed people with very different backgrounds, trying to find common ground in a minefield.
With powerhouse performances by all three actors, and an effectively simple set design, the conditions are perfect for an uncommon exploration of truth that is smart, fast-paced, laced with humor and riveting from the first scene. Just don’t expect an easy resolution to this difficult question. These characters make very convincing arguments, and there is never really a point when one outweighs the other, which means it’s ultimately up to the audience to decide. It’s the kind of topic you may find yourself discussing long after you’ve left the theater, and that, my friends, is what good theatre is all about.
“The Lifespan of a Fact” treads the boards at the Las Cruces Community Theatre Friday, Saturday and Sunday through February 18, 2024. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the website at LCCTNM.org.