Entertainment » Theatre

The Mushroom Cure

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Jul 25, 2016
The Mushroom Cure

The Cherry Lane Theatre stages Adam Strauss' hilarious, harrowing 90-minute one-hander, "The Mushroom Cure." This stand-up comedian and actor exercises his craft as he presents a manic true story of his attempt to treat his debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder with psychedelics.

The play was inspired by an actual study that shows that psilocybin could safely and effectively relieve the symptoms of OCD, possibly forever. Humorously, Strauss starts the show by reading from the transcript of the 911 call he made after overdosing on mail-order mushrooms.

For a man who debates the pros and cons of every decision ad nauseam, the promise of an end to what is endless second-guessing is enough to make him dive headfirst into the world of vigilante psychopharmacology. Audience members cringe in sympathy as he scales up his daily battle to choose the right shirt for his comedy gig, or to find the best side of the street to walk on.

It's exhausting just to watch this rigamarole; it will open viewers' eyes to the hidden pain of those who suffer from OCD and anxiety in general -- and even prompted some anxiety attacks from those just watching the action and trying to keep up.

Strauss begin his search for those magic mushrooms where any world-weary obsessor would: with his drug dealer Slo, who is as good as his name in that he's not expedient, and keeps touting the wonderful effects of the drugs he does have on hand, like some amazing ketamine.

Strauss is undaunted, however, and gets a line on some trippy cactus instead. But he's unhappy with the results, as he can't get to the level four hallucinogenic state that he believes will ultimately cure him. As second guessing is part of his OCD, he concludes that the experiment didn't work because of the high doses of SSRI anti-anxiety medication coursing through his system, which often negate psychedelic effects.

His search leads him to fall in love with a brilliant psychologist who takes him on as her unofficial research subject. They head to a remote island with his geriatric pug dog to try and find his cure. Things being what they are, however, Strauss focuses more on getting and doing mushrooms than he does on his new relationship, and she begins to notice. Ultimately, the bottom falls through on that one.

Still, Strauss is a natural storyteller, his tone and cadences bringing audience members right into the personal hell he faces every day. By the end of the play, you join Strauss by relinquishing the idea that you can control everything, and begin to let go. For Strauss, that means that he still experiences the compulsions and obsessions, but rarely engages them.

Strauss, who wrote and performed the show, is a winner of the New York Fringe Festival's Overall Excellence Award for Solo Performance, and the Leffe Craft Your Character Storytelling Competition. With help from director Jonathan Libman, he puts together a compelling, if sometimes frantic, presentation, in memory of Bea and C. Gibson.

This psychedelic therapy is still very much under discussion, with those in the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) predicting FDA approval of MDMA to treat anxiety within the next five or six years. Strauss hopes his play will increase the general understanding about OCD. Watching his show does wonders to that end.

All profits from the show are being donated to MAPS, the non-profit behind the study that inspired Strauss' quest. Since its founding, MAPS has disbursed more than $26 million for psychedelic therapy and medical marijuana research and education, all donated by individuals and family foundations. Direct donations can be made to www.maps.org.

"The Mushroom Cure" runs through August 7 at The Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St. in NYC. For information or tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.cherrylanetheatre.org

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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