by Chuck Graham

We love stories of triumph, and former professional football player Bo Eason has a good one. The younger, smaller brother of New England Patriots quarterback Tony Eson, Bo is the personification of sibling rivalry carried to the max.

Invisible Theatre brings us the whole story, told by Bo himself in a semi-autobiographical tale he calls "Runt of the Litter." As the title implies, Bo was the one who always had to try harder. Man, did he ever One reviewer of this off-Broadway stage hit compared Bo and Tony to Cain and Able.

Developed as a one-man show, Eason recounts his life as a continuous challenge to win his father's affection by being as good as his larger and more talented brother. For dramatic purposes, Bo sets the story on a character named Jack Henry who plays safety for the Houston Oilers.

Jack is preparing for the defining game of his life, the conference championship that will decide which team goes to the Super bowl. Opposing the Oilers are the New England Patriots, quarterbacked by Jack's older brother Charlie.

The reality is, back in the 1980s Bo did play safety for the Houston Oilers and Tony was the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. But the brothers never played against each other in the playoffs. That's the drama part.

The emotional pay-off in "Runt of the Litter," though, is not about who wins the game but -- as the old saying goes -- how the game is played. From childhood, Bo dedicated himself to the pursuit of a career in pro football.

He had no choice. On notebook paper, little boy Bo drew up his 20-year plan to get to the pros. Then the focused lad diligently followed that plan as he grew older, getting up daily at 5 a.m., catching 1,000 passes every day, enlisting his mother's help and never taking any football coach's "No" as the final answer.

Bo's insight into the personalities of other pro football players is in there, too. They love the war zone of the playing field, Bo observes, and they feel bothered by the "peace time" of those hours spent in civilian clothes.

"Runt of the Litter" promises to be more than just another story of conflict with a happy ending. Those guys you see on TV on game day are not robots in football gear. After the game, out of the locker room, they need someplace to go. They can't just hang around the football stadium.

Bo Eason takes us into this life, growing up on sports magazines, fighting back pain, flying on the wings of triumph, breaking the death grip of adversity. It's all on stage, the real conflicts in a game everyone plays 24/7. The game of life.

Performances of "Runt of the Litter," presented by Invisible Theatre, are at the Berger Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $42, group discounts are available. Because of the adult language among those football players, the IT staff is recommending this play for ages 12 and older.

A post-show reception with Bo Eason, and a chance to get your photo taken with him, will be held at Pastiche Modern Eatery, 3025 N. Campbell Ave., after the Dec. 5 performance. Tickets for this gathering, which includes refreshments, are $20. Reservations for the reception are made with Phyllis at IT, 520-882-9721.

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