The Curious Case of Phineas Gage
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In 1848, a New England railway worker named Phineas Gage was hit in the head by a three-and-a-half-foot tamping iron that pierced straight up his face and through the top of his skull. Miraculously, Gage survived—though his personality, some said, was changed by his partial lobotomy—and even went on to work as an attraction at P.T. Barnum’s museum of oddities. This unusual story serves as the launching pad for Split Knuckle Theatre’s devised steampunk comedy, The Curious Case of Phineas Gage, which takes the story in increasingly loony directions. The show is framed as an ostensibly fact-based presentation by three members of Midtown Manhattan Entirely Factual Historical Re-Enactment Society of Medicine (played energetically by Jason Bohon, John Egan and Greg Webster, joined by composer-musician Andrew Lynch); the trio’s version of Gage’s history eventually takes off, however, on wild paths of conspiracy theory and fantastical H.G. Wells adventure, rendered on a small curtained stage, with help from a trunk of props and costumes. The first half hour of Victorian quackery could be tightened some, but by the time Gage is flying to the moon in a secret dirigible, chased through space by a winged bearded lady, the sheer silliness wins you over. A heaping spoonful of drollery helps the medicine show go down.—Adam Feldman
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