Jack Gallagher’s favorite public misconception about himself is the level of honesty he displays in his one-man shows. He will candidly point out that while he’s tremendously forthcoming, there’s a limit to what he divulges. Honest, yes; completely honest, not exactly. He’s telling you the truth, just not the whole truth.
The storyteller’s art is on full display in Gallagher’s new, thoroughly engaging one-man show “Concussed: Four Days in the Dark,” which opened Sunday night at B Street Theatre.
Gallagher considers himself a storyteller first and foremost, even – perhaps especially – when he goes back to his stand-up comedy roots. It’s really just him and the words onstage. He’s particularly interested in stirring sequences of words that excited him and sent him with a pencil and paper to capture the elusive flows. But 2 1/2 years ago Gallagher was struck by a car while riding his bike in Land Park and suffered a traumatic brain injury. As Gallagher observes in the show, nothing is positive when “traumatic” precedes it. An impaired memory compromised his ability to use words. Blank spaces sit where information used to be.
Gallagher didn’t know he had a severe concussion when he rode his bike away from the accident site. But after several days of not feeling right, he went to the emergency room where he was told he needed cognitive rest: no stimulation to tax his brain while it tried to recover; no light, no screens of any kind (television or devices), no music, no reading, nothing that required his brain to concentrate or remember. All he was left with was thinking, which he couldn’t stop.
In “Concussed,” Gallagher works through the four days in the darkened room. In his telling, the events, though harrowing, are also often hysterically funny as the narrative takes side trips to Gallagher’s childhood, early college days and most significantly the weeks and months after the accident. The wide-ranging introspection – self-deprecating, heartfelt and sentimental – ground the play and give it an appealing emotional resonance.
Jerry Montoya, a longtime collaborator of Gallagher’s at B Street where he’s performed six one-man shows, directs the performer through his strongest and most affecting stage work to date. Gallagher has always been confident in front of the audience. Decades of stand-up comedy experience will provide performing chops, but he’s also more subtle here.
There’s a bed on stage which Gallagher occasionally reclines on, and his bike hangs in the background next to a large gear-shaped clock. Erin Hunter designed the effectively impressionistic set, and Lynnae Vana designed the subtle lighting. Gallagher works through his dark days and nights, coming away with an epiphany not surprising for someone who’s been through a near-death experience. It feels fresh and honest, even if he hasn’t told us all there is to tell.
Concussed: Four Days in the Dark
What: Jack Gallagher’s one-man show about the effects of a severe concussion
Where: B Street Theatre mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays, through April 16.
Tickets: $26-$38; $8 student rush
Information: 916-443-5300; bstreettheatre.org
Time: 80 minutes with no intermission