The Mushroom Cure chronicles one man's quest for relief from OCD | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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The Mushroom Cure chronicles one man's quest for relief from OCD

If you've ever been to a 12 Step meeting, this will feel familiar.


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After undergrad, I spent a dreary year in social work. I was terrible at it for a number of reasons, but most of all, I was spending my days providing care and counsel while completely denying my own rocky headspace. The signs were there. I'd spent years bombarded with crippling mood swings and impulsive tendencies. A few months after leaving the field, I received a bipolar II diagnosis. Naming the problem was revelatory; the liberation offered by therapy and medication—Lamictal and Fluoxetine—still feels like someone handed me superpowers.

I know what it's like to be desperate for clarity and control, which is why Adam Strauss's one-man show The Mushroom Cure rocked me. Strauss, who graduated from Brown with a BA in psychology, runs a darkly comedic sprint through the forest of his OCD diagnosis, over the hills of falling in love and the valleys of using gray-market psychedelics to "cure" himself.

With a background in stand-up, Strauss unleashes the gallows humor and self-deprecation I'd expect from a self-aware set. But the most transcendent parts of the show are when he gets ugly. It's difficult to hear how poorly he treated his female partners and the emotional labor he demanded of them. But Strauss never begs for forgiveness. A follower of the 12 Steps, he seems to be using his art to practice eight and nine: make a list of all persons you've harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all; make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

The feminist in me doesn't want to let him off the hook too easily, but I also have to acknowledge the restorative justice and vulnerability involved in Strauss's onstage confessions. If you've ever been to a 12 Step meeting, consider this one of the most compelling personal accounts out there. This isn't a show for everyone—especially if you've been harmed by someone out to make amends—but I consider it a realistic depiction of nonlinear healing and recovery.  v

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