One play making its appearance in this year’s Toronto Fringe is OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Darryl. The latest staging of the one-man show performed by comedian Darryl Pring in the Robert Gill Theatre, OCD portrays Pring’s struggles with mental illness. What were these struggles? Did Pring recover, and if so, how? What does it mean to be “crazy”? With a guitar, a nifty video projector, and his own charisma as a performer, Pring answers these shows and others, making OCD a show that informs and delights.
It’s easy enough to make mental illness the subject of compelling drama. Both the sufferer and the people around the sufferer can be drawn by mental illness into any number of plausible situations and complex emotions. Making mental illness the subject of compelling comedy can be more difficult, having to treat mental illness and its sufferers with the careful attention they deserve while not being so over careful as to squelch the possibility of laughs. It’s to the credit of Pring that OCD successfully navigates this difficult route.
That Pring is so open in his storytelling about his life, including elements of his life some might find embarrassing, is brave. That he tells his story so well shows his skill as a performer, his ability to be the likable, well-informed every-man. On stage, Pring is very much the popular “Bubba Love” of his high school years, quick-witted but friendly, quirky but relatable. When he goes on to tell the audience about his earliest struggles with obsessive thoughts, about how even when he was very young he feared even a seemingly minor thing — a blue light, a kiss from an aunt — could herald catastrophe unless he did everything perfectly correctly, we can easily relate to them. In Pring’s voice, these fears do not sound so strange, so unlike things we in the audience have felt.
As OCD continues and Pring’s tells of his increasingly more serious struggles with this kind of fear, the audience continues to be able to relate to Pring. His performance remains focused, taking his audience through his journey with insight and a wry sense of humour that works with the material. In this, he is aided by director Chris Gibbs‘s clean and uncluttered stage. Pring is able to teach us in the end that the mental illness that changed his life is less noteworthy than the insights he got as he overcome it. Thanks to Pring, we can even laugh about it.
Clocking in just under one hour in length, OCD is an entertaining show that demystifies mental illness with jokes and wisdom. Anyone who is interested in mental illness, or in how people can grow and overcome more generally, will like it.
- OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Darryl is playing until July 11 at the Robert Gill Theatre. (214 College St.)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor St. West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Remaining show times
July 03 at 03:30 PM
July 05 at 05:45 PM
July 08 at 12:15 PM
July 09 at 05:45 PM
July 10 at 08:45 PM
July 11 at 09:45 PM
Photo of Darryl Pring provided by company.