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Daniel Radcliffe is back on Broadway—and no, he’s not making a cameo in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Instead, he’s headlining in The Lifespan of a Fact, a new play, alongside Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale. The Knickerbocker team recently saw a preview performance to get the facts on the buzzy one-act show at Studio 54. Here’s why we loved The Lifespan of a Fact on Broadway.
Radcliffe plays Jim Fingal, an editorial intern at a magazine who’s tasked with fact-checking a high-profile story slated to appear in the next issue. He only has a few days to submit any notes before the piece will be sent to printers. Cherry Jones plays Emily, the magazine’s editor, who’s counting on the story to garner attention—and possibly be her lasting legacy to the publication. Bobby Cannavale is John D’Agata, the writer of the essay, which chronicles a teenager’s suicide in Las Vegas. When Jim discovers that not all the statements in the essay match what his research suggests, he, Emily and John grapple with whether the “truth” can ever differ from “fact.”
Alternating between hilarious and heartbreaking, the play is always sharp, as Emily must make the pressing call of whether to publish the essay. Are the inaccuracies a deal-breaker? Or will she agree with John, seeing literary liberties as necessary to find”true” meaning.
Radcliffe, Jones and Cannavale make a small but mighty team. Unsurprising giving the mountain of awards and nominations the three have accumulated over their careers. Radcliffe, no stranger to the stage, has four Broadway.com Audience Awards—two for his controversial 2009 performance in Equus, and two for 2011’s musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Those two shows also earned him Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle nominations. Cannavale has a Drama Desk Award, along with an Obie Award and Tony, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle noms. And Jones has an impressive two Tonys (out of five nominations), three Drama Desk Awards (out of four nominations). Needless to say, they shine together onstage, each bringing depth to their character.
The play is based on a book of the same title, written by the real life John D’Agata and Jim Fingal, documenting the lengthy edit process D’Agata’s 2003 essay, “What Happens There.” Harper’s Magazine had commissioned the piece, but ultimately refused to publish it. Two years later, The Believer magazine took the piece, and recent Harvard grad Jim Fingal fact-checked it. After another five years of back-and-forth between the two, “What Happens There” finally saw the light.
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Looking for the right show to see? Let The Knick be your guide. Check out our reviews of some of Broadways biggest current hits, like Hamilton, Frozen, Come from Away, Once on This Island, Mean Girls, and more.