Note: This is a review of an earlier production with the same cast and production team.Adam Strauss’ The Mushroom Cure is mistitled. In his quest to find a cure for his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Strauss does, indeed, resort to ingesting mushrooms, but his actual cure comes about through other means, far more fascinating than mere hallucinogens.
Strauss wittily alludes to his OCD with an opening that goes into way too many details about the pros and cons—size, shape, sound quality, etc.—of an iPod vs. an iRiver. His difficulty choosing one music player over the other becomes an epic struggle as does choosing his daily clothing, not to mention finding a straight-forward path through the City. Deciding which side of the street to walk on is a tale fraught with fear and uncertainty.
Things get complicated when he falls for Grace, a visiting student from Kansas whom he discovers while working as a show barker in Times Square. He pursues her and woos her, inviting her to see him perform in a comedy club. She starts to fall for him and becomes his inadvertent aide-de-camp in his battle with his debilitating condition, until she falls victim to his illness and has to decide if there is a future with him.
Strauss’ computer searches for cures for OCD lead him down a rabbit hole of drug abuse and trouble with the authorities in Martha’s Vineyard where he takes Grace in his quest. Even the stash of various drugs—including psychedelic cacti which requires torturous preparations before ingesting—supplied him by his drug dealer, Slo, and his anonymous internet suppliers are organized into obsessive little compartments before he begins to use each, one after the other, never quite achieving the out of body experience he believes will quiet his roiling mind.
In the course of 90 minutes, we follow the ups and downs of Strauss’ professional, mental health and romantic lives in great detail. To his credit, Strauss gives the impression of delivering these stories as if for the first time. He is fresh and very involved, yet sensitive to the audience’s reactions. He manages to make a tediously unattractive condition fascinating and also manages to make himself affecting and human, his disability notwithstanding. OCD has never been as attractively rendered.
His director Jonathan Libman’s influence is evident in the timing and clarity of the show and Strauss’ subtle characterizations of each of his cast of characters. Jessica Elliott’s lighting made the most of the stage area occupied by only a chair and a little table with drawers.
The Mushroom Cure (reopened December 14, 2017; closed on June 30, 2018; reopens July 20 – September 22, 2018)
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
Theatre 80 St Marks, 80 St. Marks Place, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.TheMushroomCure.com
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission