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Review: Eugene Mirman's "Wonders" at the Brattle

 There were no Fiji mermaids or dog-faced boys to be found at the “Cabinet of Wonders” show at the Brattle Theatre last Thursday, but the odd variety-show format ensured that its shelves were well-stocked with exotic curios.

First, the night’s host — Hastings-born, Dylan-inspired singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding — tore into a few earwormy numbers off his new album, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (Rebel Group). Fellow MC (and former Lexington resident) Eugene Mirman applied himself more sparingly, popping up every now and then with video-punctuated comedy bits that included his infamous Delta Air Lines tirade. (At one point, he likens Delta’s inept customer service to “hiring an insincere baby with amnesia to solve a crime it committed.”)

The first special guest star was Belmont author Tom Perrotta reading “The Squeamish American,” a short autobiographical story in which his picky food revulsions lead to an unfortunate brush with East Germany’s secret police. This was followed by poetry from Ploughshares editor David Daniel. Up next was Brooklyn punk-folker P.T. Walkley, whose laconic stage patter gave way to a rollicking live set.

In Act II, things got weird. Comedian Larry Murphy took the meta route with his version of a first-time stand-up that bombs. Then came Ice Storm author Rick Moody with a dizzying and absurdist poem about cheese; that segued into a musical team-up with JWH for bizarre deep cut “The Minotaur’s Song” by the Incredible String Band. Things returned to normal when former Throwing Muse Tanya Donelly took the stage for a lovely, fluttery rendition of “Moon over Boston” and novelist David Gates lent his gruff drawl to Merle Haggard’s “High on a Hilltop.”

For the big blow-off, everyone reconvened back on stage for a “We Are the World”–style musical punch line that . . . well, in case you happen to catch one of the upcoming gigs on this tour, I won’t spoil the ending. Let’s just hope the Cabinet door swings open again in Boston sometime soon.

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