Football as spectacle, entertainment, and business was all over the television last weekend at the dawn of another NFL season. Onstage at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday night was a starkly different portrayal of the game-Bo Eason’s visceral performance in Runt of the Litter, a one-man play that he wrote from his experience as boy who realized his dream of playing pro football. He exudes a passion that is both disturbing and inspiring.
The play is set in a locker room-a training table on one side, a stool and cubicle on the other. Jack Henry (Eason) enters the scene about an hour before he and his team of “45 mutts” are going to play for the conference championship. Jack is a safety, the definitive defender (“If you can’t get past him : you lose”), and the opposing team is led by “the greatest quarterback,” who happens to be his brother Charlie. In real life, Bo Eason was a safety for the Houston Oilers, and his older brother Tony a quarterback for the New England Patriots, but they never played a game against each other.
Jack declares his brother’s team “is not willing to die.” He contrasts “smart players” with “pure players” like himself, who will hold back nothing. He has been damaged (Eason has real surgical scars on his knees), but when it’s time to put on his uniform, pads, and helmet, he is transformed. He describes the armor as “a permission slip to indulge in your darkest side : at 25 miles per hour, I hit people so hard you smell smoke.” He leaves the room determined to “color the field red with his [brother’s] blood and drown him in it.”
Besides the obvious sibling rivalry-he is both envious and admiring of Charlie’s natural ability-Jack is motivated by the desire to meet his workaholic father’s approval. It was to his father “and God” that he vowed, at age 9, that he would become an NFL player, even though he lacked stature and talent. “My life has been created by my dad’s eyes,” Jack says.
Bo Eason used his own eyes and brains, post football career, to create a complex life that unfolds for 80 riveting minutes. His performance here kicked off a national tour that will take him to 30 cities. Almost a decade has passed since Runt of the Litter first opened in New York, and Eason is now pushing 50 years old, but like Brett Favre-maybe even more so-he’s still got what it takes.
The Lobero showing was a benefit for the XXI Century Kids 1st Foundation, an organization that combats obesity and diabetes in children.