a group of people sitting around a living room
‘Lifespan of a Fact,’ playing at Red Barn Theatre through April 27, stars, from left, Cody Borah, Rita Troxel and Dave Bootle. LARRY BLACKBURN/Contributed

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 by the media about anything actually true?

In the final main stage production of its 44th season, the Red Barn Theatre in Key West takes this controversy head-on with “Lifespan of a Fact,” a play with relevance in this era of alternative facts. The play, written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, runs through April 27, and is adapted from a 2012 book by the real men portrayed in the play about a real incident in Nevada. All curtain times are 7 p.m. instead of the normal 8 p.m.

The play stars local actors Dave Bootle, Cody Borah and Rita Troxel. It’s directed by the Barn’s artistic director, Joy Hawkins. “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 innocuously enough. Jim is a fresh-out-of-Harvard, eager fact checker hired by Emily, a struggling magazine’s top editor, to check an article submitted by the well-known and talented writer, John. The article is about 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, 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 1,100 feet high or far shorter? Did the boy’s death connect with other phenomena that day – like banned lap dances 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% 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 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?

Who’s to say which character is focusing on truth that really matters? Those in attendance will have to decide for themselves.Tickets for “Lifespan of a Fact” are available at redbarntheatre.com or by calling 305-296-9911.