Adam Strauss’ Off-Broadway hit The Mushroom Cure is the true tale of Strauss’ hilarious, harrowing and heartrending attempts to treat his OCD with psychedelics. Photo: David Allen
is the true tale of Strauss’ hilarious, harrowing and heartrending attempts to treat his OCD with psychedelics. Photo: David Allen

After successful runs Off-Broadway and in the Bay Area, Adam Strauss returns to Berkeley with his acclaimed one-person show, through July 7.

A writer, performer and stand-up comedian based in New York, Strauss wrote this 90-minute, no-intermission performance, which is the true story of Strauss’s determined struggle to cure his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), even to the point of trying hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Directed by Jonathan Libman, Strauss, with humor and heart wrenching sincerity, describes how his life was crippled and all his activities were frustrated by his OCD-induced indecision. Most of us can easily choose on which side of the street to walk, or which shirt to wear, but to Strauss, such everyday selections drove him to the brink. He couldn’t function. Thinking that buying ten copies of the same shirt would solve his dressing dilemma, the subtle differences he noted after washing them caused his OCD to explode.

After he had unsuccessfully tried therapy, prescription drugs, meditation, yoga and hypnosis, Strauss read a journal article suggesting that psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms, could alleviate symptoms of OCD. And so the hopeful and desperate search to find the psychedelic mushrooms was on. Even Strauss’s drug dealer, “Slo,” had difficulty locating the mushrooms. In a funny bit, Strauss describes how he spent 14 hours turning an 11-foot cactus into an indigestible liquid of sorts, but with no cure.

Then there is the difficulty an OCD sufferer experiences when trying to sustain a love life. The two women with whom Strauss had relationships found his behavior too difficult over time. The sadness and regret Strauss still feels about the end of those relationships is powerful and palpable in his performance.

In fact, every aspect of Strauss’s presentation is personal in content and professional in technique. His voice and demeanor changes as he acts the part of his girlfriend, Grace. As he sits, stands, walks, he keeps the audience captivated with his portrayal. It is impossible not to empathize with Strauss as he shares so much about his life with his audience. By the end of the 90 minutes we are very moved and yet happy to know that he is now coping pretty well with his life and we wish him nothing but continued happiness and equanimity in his future.

The Marsh, which is in San Francisco as well as in Berkeley, refers to itself as “a breeding ground for new performance.” It specializes in presenting solo shows and in helping writers, comedians and actors develop their material, and has several classes where students can write and hone their craft. It’s a great venue for novice and experienced entertainers to work.

The Mushroom Cure is playing 8 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday nights at The Marsh, 2120 Alston Way, through July 7. For tickets ($20-$35 sliding scale, $55-$100 reserved), information, and extended dates, visit The Marsh online.

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Emily S. Mendel

Emily S. Mendel reviews Berkeley’s vibrant theater scene for Berkeleyside. As a native New Yorker (although an East Bay resident for most of her life), Emily grew up loving and studying theater, from...