I recently had the immense pleasure of attending the final 2019 performance of The Seance. This Victorian-era re-enactment showcases what seances were actually like when they took place on stages across America.
The Seance Review: We Play with the Dead
You won’t see any groups of four or six people grasping hands around a round table during The Seance. Instead, audiences are treated to an entertaining and informative introduction by Thom Britton that traces the history of seances and their associated religion, Spiritualism. Next, the comical and talented Jonathan Pritchard brings the vaudeville seance acts of the Victorian Age back to life.
Because seances were live theatrical events that featured much more than merely communing with the dead, Pritchard emulates some of the best acts of magic from Harry Houdini’s day. For example, he gets tied up and then escapes easily.
Many audience members are given the opportunity to participate. I took Pritchard up on his offer to ask a question of the dead. Pritchard indicated that the ghost of Detroit Spiritualism believer Thomas Bradford had entered the room and would be answering each question. Bradford intentionally took his own life in 1921 due to his determination to come back and prove that ghosts are real.
I won’t spoil anything for you about whether or not the events that took place on stage really involved a ghost. But what I will say is that Pritchard knew my name and question without looking at the folded card I’d written them on. He gave an answer that was vague enough to lean toward a yes or no, but which also clearly addressed my specific question in a way that defied sheer guesswork.
The Seance kept the lively crowd laughing and fully tuned in to each seemingly miraculous event. I could explain how some of it was done. However, that would take away the magic of a night that’s best remembered for what I couldn’t figure out versus what I could.
This show is billed as “a ‘spook-house’ show for the smart set.” If that appeals to you, then I highly recommend checking it out when the 2020 season starts up. The Seance tours in March and October each year. Learn more by visiting weplaywiththedead.com.
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