Dallas — Solo performer John Michael is haunted by the death of his mother. But he doesn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable with that fact or to not know what to say in response. In his one-man show Meatball Séance currently running as part of the 2018 Dallas Solo Fest, he breaks the ice by disarming the audience in a matter-of-fact tone, “All mothers will die.”
Trading in his Ouija board for a cutting board, the Chicago-based—though Dallas-raised—artist attempts to summon his mother’s spirit with her favorite recipe so that she can meet his new boyfriend. So like all good séances, you light a candle, chop garlic and fennel, and boil a package of spaghetti.
You’re thinking, But wait. If this is a solo performance, who plays the boyfriend? You’ve guessed it: there’s audience participation. Members of the audience are tasked with performing the roles of various boyfriends as well as the vessel for his mother’s spirit. Despite his claim to be difficult to work with, John Michael’s charismatic charm easily convinces people to share the stage with him. (If you absolutely don’t want to participate, though, just cross your arms.)
Part autobiographical/part confessional, the hour-long performance, directed by Janet Howe, is filled with cheesy asides and note-perfect comic timing, which helps to mitigate the gut punches of grief peppered throughout. John Michael’s hilarious banter with the audience pulls them in. Even his meta-theatrical interactions with the theater techie confirms that social interaction is the essence of this smart, affecting, and engrossing show.
The Metroplex is fortunate that John Michael retains his ties to the area. If you’ve seen some of his previous shows, Would You Like Guys With That? and John Michael and the Order of the Penix, for example, then you already know why he’s earned such high praise from his more experienced peers such as Tim Miller.
» Meatball Seánce continues at 10 p.m. Saturday, June 9; and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 10.