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Courtesy Ottawa Fringe.

Fringe Review: Meatball Séance

By Bruce Burwell on June 19, 2022

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Meatball Séance
Created by John Michael
Produced by John Michael Plays (Chicago, USA)
60m | 14+ | Comedy
Content warnings: Mature Language, Sexual Content, Audience Participation

As Meatball Séance begins, John Michael enters wearing glittery briefs and an apron. There is a lot of enthusiastic running around and jumping and he tells us that:

“I have a new boyfriend!”

We’re very happy for him, of course, but slightly concerned since his boyfriend isn’t on the stage. We’ve read the content warnings and know that this is an audience participation show. Sure enough, he finds the new boyfriend in the audience and the running and jumping continues.

We do learn one very important thing at that time though: if you cross your arms, John Michael will exempt you from audience participation. So we crossed our arms. But I should say that all audience members who did get up on stage were treated with respect and survived the experience without apparent damage.

Of course, taking the new boyfriend home to meet Mom is an important milestone in any relationship. And sure enough, John Michael really, really, really wants the new boyfriend to meet Mom. But it turns out that she died a few years ago and is now just a photo on the kitchen table.

But maybe she could be summoned if John’s new love made her famous meatballs and held a séance? The boyfriend is sat down at the kitchen table and is instructed in the ways of making Mom’s meatballs.

Likely, this all sounds kind of silly and pointless. And to a point it is. The thing that keeps us engaged throughout is John Michael’s sincerity. You don’t run around a stage in your underwear holding a picture of your dead mother unless you really miss her. So we do believe that he needs her back. At the end of the show we find out that he’s had some other significant losses in his life. Perhaps performance art is just cheaper than a really good therapist.

Near the end a suitable audience member is chosen and we try to encourage Mom to return and inhabit this new body. My favorite part of the show was getting to chant “Bring her back! Bring her back!” I really wanted Mom to make an appearance and help us sort out her son.

This was John Michael’s first live show since the pandemic shutdown. There were a couple of minor glitches that will likely get smoothed out over the week.


Meatball Séance by John Michael is playing at Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Avenue) until June 26, 2022. Tickets cost $12 online (plus a $2 processing fee) and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at https://apt613.ca/category/festival/fringe/.

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