Review: Cracked the Musical

BY: HILARY PEARSON

One thing about this pandemic, there has been no shortage of creativity taking place online. Shot with the entire cast socially isolating, the short musical,Cracked, is no exception.

Vanessa is a high-achieving but emotionally distant woman who has had a concussion. As per the musical’s synopsis, “Vanessa gets conflicting doctors’ reports via her personal injury lawsuit – the doctor hired by her insurance company says she is fine, but the doctor hired by her lawyer says she is not. She then has to figure out who to believe, how to determine whether her symptoms are real or not, and how to proceed going forward – before her case goes to trial.”Cracked the Musical Poster

As a member of the brain injury community, I am glad there is something like this out there. This musical is truly unique. I am impressed with the production team’s creativity in composing their 16-minute mini-musical. Each cast member performs in their own living space, as is life right now.

A caution to all acquired brain injury (ABI) survivors that suffer from phonophobia or sound sensitivity, note that Vanessa sings with power and can definitely reach a high-C note.

Vanessa expresses very powerful thoughts after sustaining a head injury.

“Life as you know it is over.”

“Doctors say opposite things.”

“This is my life. It’s not a game.”

“I listened to them more than me.”

Vanesa refers to her lawyers, John and Chris, in the third song of the musical. She doubts herself throughout the process of recovery and pursuing a lawsuit. The pressure to make a decision is a very real and authentic experience of many ABI survivors.

The show asks the question of how a patient’s self-perception or sense of self-worth can be altered by the dramatic process of going through a personal injury lawsuit.

I think this concept is quite apparent throughout the performance. Vanessa has one line that I think all ABI survivors can relate to.

“The pain went away- wait, it’s back. I don’t know what’s real or fake. Am I fine?”

This rollercoaster of emotions, symptoms, pain, confusion, and uncertainty is absolutely a part of every patient with post concussion syndrome. The final song starts with Vanesa contemplating the concept of mindset. She consults reading material that suggests, “How you think you are, will directly impact your recovery.”

Vanessa has an interesting response.

“So what if I just decide I am better?”

Vanessa enthusiastically works through her opportunities ‘now that she is better.’ She can read books and visit her mom and her friends. She can return to work and excel in an environment that fosters a supportive community. I remember having the same thoughts during my recovery. I can resonate with the longing for relationships and contact with friends and family. After two and a half years of recovery, I was finally able to attempt reading again. I finished my first 200-page novel. That was a victory, a win.

Brain injury takes away so many luxuries I never knew I could miss. Like tying my hair up in a pony-tail. Surviving an entire day without a migraine attack. Meeting a friend at a coffee shop for a visit, an environment with loud noise and bright light.

Positive mindsets can be important for recovery. It is important to note that every single head injury is different. Every single path to recovery is different.

Cracked shows us one brain injury survivor’s journey. Vanessa’s journey is evidently painful, confusing and stressful. This is quite relatable. I personally cannot resonate with the concept that an instant change of mindset was the turning point in my recovery.

The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) provides their members with a Brain Injury Survivor Card. This card includes the following information:

NO TWO BRAIN INJURIES ARE ALIKE.

Symptoms of brain injury MAY include:

● Poor coordination or balance
● Slurred speech
● Confusion
● Impatience
● Impaired judgement
● Difficulty processing
● Agitation
● Communication difficulties
● Impulsivity
● Memory problems
● Disorientation
● Hearing or vision loss
● Seizure disorder

This card can be used to communicate with others in public if the individual is experiencing a flare up of symptoms. Many ABI victims can appear intoxicated to others who do not understand their behaviours while in pain or experiencing brain fog or sudden memory loss.

The survivor card also states, “You are not alone.”

I find this comforting. Just as I feel comfort in knowing there are other ABI survivors out there writing musicals about their concussion experience.

I hope that Vanessa’s message sparks some motivation for those who are still in the thick of their recovery, to fight for a mindset that masters a positive attitude. I applaud the cast members of Cracked in their initiative to create awareness of this life altering injury in a fantastic expression of art and music.

Tickets are available until May 31. Buy them and watch HERE

For more information, go to: http://crackedthemusical.mystrikingly.com


Hilary is a Toronto-based non-fiction writer and UofT master’s student. Hilary is recovering from TBI, PCS— and spends much of her free time on FaceTime with Isla, her baby niece.”

This post originally appeared on her Instagram, @halite_brain_beads