September 18-October 11, 2009
If ever football has been both warlike and poetic, it is in Runt of the Litter, now playing at ACT. Former NFL player turned writer/actor Bo Eason plays Jack Henry: the ultimate underdog who has battled adversity, a more talented older brother and four knee surgeries to get a chance at playing in the Super Bowl. While preparing for the playoff game before the Super Bowl, he tells stories of how his childhood dream of making it into the NFL transformed into a life-long quest of pushing the boundaries of physical possibility and outside expectation.
Definitely not the typical athlete turned actor, Bo Eason commands the stage with confidence and determination, allowing the audience to experience both his inner primitive warrior and the shy and wide-eyed 9 year old within.
The technical elements of the production played a good supportive game to Eason’s storytelling. Martin Christoffel’s scenic design, in conjunction with Alex Berry’s lighting and Bruce Ellman’s sound design, created a space in which the mood could change from touching to menacing as quickly as Eason could run (25 miles an hour, he says repeatedly).
Like a good coach, director Larry Moss channels Eason’s brute strength and stamina into a powerhouse of a show. Bursts of energy are blended in with tender moments of emotion that keep the performance moving swiftly through its hour and a half entirety. Under Moss’ guiding hand, Eason’s heart and spirit are showcased right alongside his locker-room dance moves.
Photo by Christ Bennion.
Runt of the Litter looks at football not as “just a game” but as an almost Spartan lifestyle full of injuries in battle and a disregard for the point when human nature says no. Here, the hero is carted off the field on a stretcher and the hardworking everyman has already locked his sights on his next target.
Review by Kacey Shiflet.