Saturday, December 12, 2009

"“RUNT OF THE LITTER” IS A HAUNTING (AND RIVETING) TALE OF TRIUMPH

"“RUNT OF THE LITTER” IS A HAUNTING (AND RIVETING) TALE OF TRIUMPH

If Invisible Theatre never does anything else, the idealistic company will be forever treasured for bringing us Bo Eason in his one-man show, “Runt of the Litter.” Everyone who saw Eason’s performance in a pair of shows last weekend can consider themselves blessed in Tucson theater circles.


This was one of the most powerful, intense, touching and compelling experiences seen on a local stage in decades. It is impossible to overstate the emotional power Eason created all by himself working in the spotlight of the Berger Performing Arts Center.


Using just a few props and some sound effects, the former professional football player took us from his memories of being an awe-struck 9-year-old determined to get his working class father’s attention, to the following years of discipline that turned him into the terrifyingly driven safety on defense for the Houston Oilers. Determined to make up in psychological force what he lacked in physical size, Eason lived to throw himself in harm’s way on the football field at every opportunity.


All because, as he was growing up, Eason’s older brother Tony was the gifted athlete who took his talent for granted. Tony got the lion’s share of their father’s attention, too.


Tony Eason would go on to become starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. Bo Eason also made it to the NFL, playing safety for the Houston Oilers.


But “Runt of the Litter” isn’t about playing football…exactly…or working hard for your dreams. There is football and hard work in it, and some telling scenes about the eccentric nature of men who play pro ball, as well as the violence contained within their sport.


The play is really about how having focused determination can be a valuable quality, but if carried to extremes that determination becomes a poisonous obsession. In the case of professional football, it can turn overachieving athletes into wild-eyed animals consumed by their own voracious appetites.


You don’t think a sweet little 9-year-old kid who adores his big brother and lives for his dad can make that twisted transformation? Eason has seen it happen first hand. He knows that feeling inside and out. He also has the artistic talent to tell the story in a way so compelling, so convincing, it will stick in your head forever.


Just ask someone who saw Bo Eason in “Runt of the Litter” this weekend. Then ask Invisible Theater to bring the show back to Tucson for a much longer run.