Someone’s in the kitchen with John-Michael Colgin: Meatball Seance

In December I was privileged to attend John-Michael Colgin’s Meatball Seance, a performance piece in which he connects with his deceased mother by cooking her special meatballs while courting a succession of boyfriends. It was a workshop performance, which means he was still in the process of shaping the new show. This was made clear to the audience at the onset. As you entered the theater, two large, butcher paper posters listed ingredients and cooking instructions. There were tables laid out with breadcrumbs, eggs, olive oil, basil, wine, etc…and an electric skillet.

Colgin did a lot of his preliminary stage exploration here in Dallas a few years ago, under the tutelage and guidance of the late, visionary Matt Tomlanovich, and Nouveau 47, which sponsors much burgeoning and unorthodox talent, as part of their mission and ideology. Colgin’s groundbreaking work work as a monologist and performance artist has been extraordinary, seamlessly blending anecdotal experience with metaphysical and emotional epiphany. His shows always feel spontaneous, and his warm, exuberant energy is almost impossible to resist. He climbs over furniture, talks directly to audience members; his unabashed and genuine lack of shame when discussing his queer sexual exploits is so charismatic, it absolves gay identity of the perverse stigma so many bring to it.

Meatball Seance certainly doesn’t lack for Colgin’s own peculiar brand of charm. Like so many of us do, he still talks to his mother, and acknowledges her presence in his daily life. The three guys he pulled from the audience to play his boyfriends were quite cooperative, considering he had them helping with all kinds of things, in the production of his mother’s recipe. He even got the rest of us to join hands in an attempt to summon his mother’s spirit. During the course of the show, he explained the magical aspects of mom making food for him as a boy (the kind of enchantment we can all relate to) and subsequently bringing each boyfriend home to get acquainted with mother’s spirit. He is quite skilled and intuitive here, he includes us in the nonchalant, yet sincere ritual of invocation.

As he’s demonstrated in previous shows, Coligin isn’t shy with his hands-on, enthusiastic (if sloppy) approach to food and other ways of getting cozy and crazy on the stage. We gather, at the heart of his loopy shenanigans, some ideas about what it means to date and find one’s husband in the world, and boundaries and sacred and beautiful energy our parents can bring to our lives. One of Colgin’s great strengths is his ability to elucidate and make a point without belaboring. That being said, I wish Meatball Seance hadn’t felt quite so amorphous, so off the cuff. It seemed to lack a kind of clarity and purpose, that made the motivating ideas inevitable or unavoidable. It was very pleasurable, but perhaps not quite there yet.

Meatball Seance played at Nouveau 47, The Magolia Lounge, Fair Park, 1121 First Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75210.

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