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B Street Theatre's 'Concussed' Reflects On Life After Traumatic Brain Injury

  

Comedian and storyteller Jack Gallagher has been performing one-man shows for Sacramento’s B Street Theatre for years. His new play is “Concussed,” about his long recovery from an injury sustained while bike riding. CapRadio's Theater Critic Jeff Hudson says it's one of Gallagher's best efforts. 

The bike accident happened three years ago, on Gallagher’s 61st birthday. He rolled up to an intersection on his bike, and he sort of stopped, and so did this car, coming from another direction. Then things went wrong.

“I thought she was waiting for me to cross the intersection. So I put my hand up to say thank you, and as soon as I did that, she made the turn, and that wave quickly became ,'No, No, No!'” says Gallagher.

He ends up with a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic is a word, that when couple it with any other word, makes that word terrible,“ he says. “It doesn’t make any word sound good. Traumatic Christmas. Traumatic birthday.”

The doctor orders him to lie down for four days in a dark room – no music, no computer, just “brain rest.” But when he returns to work, there are issues.

“I have a word in my head that I want to say,“ he says. “I know the word I want to say, and I can’t get it out. Or there won’t be a word… And it’s frightening to me, because for 38 years, words have been my life.” 

But those days in bed also prompt him to take stock of his life and his abilities as a man in his early 60s. Some observations are lighthearted, like this breezy routine about grey hair.

“Women dye their hair, and they want you to know!“ he says. “They say ‘I’m trying a new color, what do you think?’ Guys pretend like nobody knows. Like 85 years old, your face is all wrinkled, your hair is black, black. You know that color doesn’t exist in nature, you know that color where ravens are flying over your head.”

Let it be noted that Jack is a silver fox these days, wearing his hair a bit longer than a few years ago. 

All in all, “Concussed” is a carefully-considered, solidly-structured and well-balanced solo show – even by the high standards that Gallagher has established for himself.

It’s frequently funny, of course – the man knows how to tell a joke. And there are silly side trips into pop music, and shopping for bananas at Trader Joe’s. Gallagher always manages to get personal without becoming overly confessional – and here, he manages to convey the unsettling knowledge that the concussion could have ended his career, without becoming obsessively gloomy.

The way he assesses his life, and makes a few mid-course corrections, add up to 90 minutes of compelling first-person theater.

“Concussed” continues through April 16 at Sacramento’s B Street Theatre. 

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