Pocket Cowboys versus Pocket Rockets? Hoping to win off the river? What are you willing to bet to end up with A Mind Full of Dopamine?
Should you see it?
Rory Ledbetter’s A Mind Full of Dopamine is an open and honest account of his own personal gambling addiction. The story follows Rory as he lands in Los Angeles for work and ends up with a staggering mountain of debt incurred by problem gambling.
Ledbetter is an amazing storyteller and he lays himself bare before the audience as he delves into the little neurotransmitter in our brain that rewards each of us for doing things to survive, that little drug that we are all addicted to, dopamine.
Personally, as an Addiction Counsellor, working in the Ottawa high schools, I talk about dopamine a lot. It’s released, in normal quantities, whenever we eat, warm ourselves, drink, have sex, or do anything that is ultimately for our survival. It’s released in massive quantities when we become intoxicated, whether it’s through a substance or through an energetic rush and Ledbetter describes how it works perfectly through an entertaining and engaging monologue which keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
We watch as Ledbetter hits what he thinks is rock bottom, only to find out that there’s so much deeper he can end up. We are crossing our fingers for him as he bets away his rent money on horrible poker hands, we celebrate with him in his little victories, but by the end of the show we celebrate with him for the fact that he is now in recovery.
Rory Ledbetter manages to humanize addiction in a way that I have never been truly able to see before on stage or in film. He makes us feel his cravings and his temptation to relapse, but keeps the play light with his high energy and funny pop culture references.
A Mind Full of Dopamine is by far one of the best Fringe shows I have seen in a long time. It not only carries a powerful message, but is also just one of the most honest and forthcoming shows about addiction and this little neurotransmitter which can control our lives.
I went into Mindful of Dopamine expecting a high-energy, fun-filled romp through gambling addiction. As someone who is very close to several recovering addicts, I should have seen the inherent flaw in my expectation: gambling addiction is not exactly a fun-filled topic. Rory Ledbetter tells his true tale in a highly entertaining way but I found this show to be more cringe-worthy than laugh-worthy.
This, however, is not a bad thing. Watching someone descend into an absolute Mount Everest of debt, lose everything, and hit rock bottom – only to humbly learn that there is so much further to go- is painful and heartbreaking. But guess what? That’s the reality of addiction.
Ledbetter succeeds in giving audience members an honest glimpse of what it’s like to be an addict: from the innocent introduction to the slow slide into dependency to the realization that life is ruined all the way crawling back to redemption. He commands my respect for opening up and sharing his experiences in such a truthful, candid way. Plus, it’s just a good show: well-paced, well-acted, and well-written. You can’t go wrong.
The only thing I didn’t like about this show was that the pop culture references felt forced and the game-show promised at the end distracted me at times, particularly at the end when it seemed like a random add-on after an already thoroughly satisfying show. Ledbetter has a fantastic show, one that reminds me of John Grady’s storytelling at its finest, and he doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks to draw the crowd in. A story about gambling addiction, when done properly, grabs your attention right away with the excitement of chance and coupled with a likeable character, we’re hooked. I felt that there was enough of laughs and lightness throughout the story that audiences would have been entertained without the cheap one-liners. Otherwise, this show would be a flawless hit for me.
Based on Matthew’s review and Caitlin’s follow-up, I went into A Mind Full of Dopamine with high expectations, and I was not disappointed. Rory Ledbetter is an engaging and energetic storyteller. He can describe card games in a way that will make you sit on the edge of your seat, even if you’re not a poker fiend. A Mind Full of Dopamine is hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure – Ledbetter doesn’t shy away from the truth, making the description of his recovery all the more effective.
I did enjoy the nerdy references, which I felt added a lot of personality to the show and made parts of the audience burst out in gleeful giggles. Yes, the Dopamine Live game show at the end is a bit of a gimmick and the show could have done just fine without it, but I thought it was a cute way of providing a practical example of a dopamine rush. A Mind Full of Dopamine is a well-paced show that draws you in with laughter and isn’t afraid to take you to honest, painful places. I applaud Ledbetter for having the courage to tell us the truth, even when it involves his lowest, most painful moments.
What did you think of A Mind Full of Dopamine? Did this play teach you anything about addiction? If so, what? Join the discussion in the comments below!
For more information on A Mind Full of Dopamine, including show times and how to get advance tickets, visit the show page on OttawaFringe.com: http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/a-mind-full-of-dopamine/