In a world where war, disease, famine, diversity, equality, AI, and God knows what else is piled on the plate in front of us, there may be one issue in that stew of concerns that trumps them all: Is any of what we’re being told in the media about anything entirely true?

In the final main stage production of their remarkable 44th season, the Red Barn Theatre in Key West takes this controversy head on with “Lifespan of a Fact”, an intriguing and humorous offering that has obvious relevance in this era of alternative facts. The play, written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell, runs April 9 – 27, and is adapted from a 2012 book by the real men portrayed in the play about a real incident in Nevada.

The play stars top local actors Dave Bootle, Cody Borah, and Rita Troxel. It’s directed by the Barn’s artistic director, Joy Hawkins. And be advised: All curtain times are 7 pm instead of the normal 8 pm.

“It’s a very unique play,” said Hawkins. “I can’t compare it to anything else. It’s not a tie-it-up-in-a-bow kind of theater. You have to figure out for yourself what you think.”

The story starts off innocuously enough – Jim is a fresh-out-of-Harvard, eager beaver fact checker hired by Emily, a struggling magazine’s top editor, to fact-check an article submitted by the well-known and talented writer, John. The piece is centered around an indisputable incident: a 16-year-old boy is dead, having jumped from the observation deck of Las Vegas’ Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. Beyond that is where things get sticky.

Turns out John has inserted unnecessary lies into his work under the guise of “artistic license” – for instance, was the casino deck actually 1100 feet high or far shorter, and did the boy’s death connect with other phenomena that day – like banned lap dances, the world’s oldest Tabasco bottle, or a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken named Ginger? 

“I’m not interested in accuracy,” says John. “I’m interested in truth.” And woe to anyone who calls his shattering essay an “article”. He is not cool with anyone tampering with his copy, insisting that 100 percent accuracy in names, dates, and specific incidents is less important than rhythm, music, and beauty in the language.

But Jim – out to prove himself – is not having any of it, and poor Emily is caught in the middle, concerned only with saving her magazine and knowing a sensational piece by the acclaimed John could prop up shrinking ad sales and disappearing subscriptions. What should she do?

The action is brisk, with plenty of sharp and funny repartee, sometimes unfolding like a taut thriller, but always coming back to the main question – do you undermine yourself by fiddling with the facts, or do you allow whatever is necessary to find the “higher truth” – the music of a boy’s tragic death?

Who’s to say which one of them is speaking the kind of truth that really matters? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

The Washington Post called the play “buoyantly literate…briskly entertaining.”  Variety said “…terrifically funny dialogue…the debate at the heart of the play demands serious attention.”

Tickets for “Lifespan of a Fact” are available at or by calling 305-296-9911. Remember that all curtain times are 7 pm.

The show is sponsored in part by Design Key West, Culture Builds Florida, and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

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