Meatballs and Music is, in a word, devastating. It’s one of those wonderful, terrible, cathartic pieces that pulls you apart and puts you back together again in a way that feels almost too real. And I’m so glad I saw it. Chock full of song, humor, but most of all heart, Meatballs and Music is another Fringe one-man act where Tom Sweitzer (writer, actor) recounts the story of his childhood, and how he grew up with his mother and schizophrenic father in 1980s Pennsylvania.
Sweitzer relays his story through a series of monologues, starting in childhood and ending in adulthood. It’s exceedingly enjoyable to watch Sweitzer flit around the stage, hopping in and out of characters with very distinct personas like his mother, his piano teacher, the boy who moved in nearby. But his talent for switching in and out of character is also excellently harnessed by Jeremy Blaustein (director) as a means to catch us off guard just when we start laughing too much, reminding us that each of these characters has a reason to become entirely serious.
Working together, Blaustein and Sweitzer heighten the impact of humor and heartache and still make sure that the Sweitzer of the present comes back from time to time to remind us that he is okay. Through these means, the play is able to explore a lot in its hour and 30-minute runtime. It encompasses not just one life, a whole childhood, two parents, music, and meatballs, but also resilience and, most of all, the unconditional love that children have for their parents.
That’s exactly what makes the show so devastatingly beautiful. Both funny and moving, it’s the epitome of “you’ll laugh, and you’ll cry.” With that in mind, I do want to offer a trigger warning to folks before they attend. Many of Sweitzer’s childhood experiences are extremely traumatic and not glossed over. As an audience member, you bear close witness to that. If you do find, though, that you’re able to hold space for it, Meatballs and Music makes for a moving, memorable piece of theatre.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Meatballs and Music plays three more times — July 21, 2022, at 6:00 pm; July 23 at 1:30 pm; and July 24 at 7:00 pm — at HOME RULE – Formerly Washington Sports Club, 3270 M Street NW, Washington, DC. To see the performance schedule and purchase tickets ($15), go online.
COVID Safety: The audience is to remain masked for the show. The mask needs to cover your mouth and nose the whole time. Proof of vaccination and ID are checked before entry.
Age appropriateness: Appropriate for Adults Only