Runt of the Litter: NFL Star Bo Eason and His One-Man Show
When the lights go up on Runt of the Litter—a semiautobiographical one-man show written and performed by NFL safety Bo Eason—the audience finds itself in sideline seats to a locker room, where a pro football player is prepping for a big game. As he waits out the hour until kickoff—lacing up his pants, putting on his shoulder pads, injecting steroids into his knees—he tells the audience how he came to be here, starting almost at the beginning.
Born the runty younger brother of an effortlessly natural athlete, our underdog hero shared his brother's dreams of playing pro football and devoted himself to gaining by force of will those skills that came so easily to his sibling. When he was 9 years old, our narrator conceived and commenced his Twenty Year Plan, a rigorous daily regimen of training and practice designed to secure his spot in the NFL. Every step of the way, doubters worked to crush his spirit by reminding him of his runtiness and comparing him to his superhuman brother. But with his unwavering devotion to the plan and the undying support of his father, our hero kept chasing his dream, and the details of this chase make up the bulk of Runt of the Litter.
Underdog stories have fueled a ton of beloved drama, thanks to their humble heroes and rootworthy conflicts, but Runt sacrifices all such drama when the curtain goes up: Here we are in an NFL locker room—we don't have to wonder whether that guy in the pro-football uniform (identified extensively in the program as a former NFL great) will make it to the NFL. What's left is one man's story of meticulously overcoming the odds to achieve his dream, performed by the man himself in a style that vacillates between rambling standup and high-octane motivational speaking.
Between the complex violence of professional sports and the extended sibling rivalry, Eason's life is rich with dramatic possibility. Instead, Eason narrows his focus, time and again, to variations of the same story: He wanted to catch a ball, and nobody thought he could catch the ball, but HE TOTALLY CAUGHT THE BALL. The stories are presented with you-are-there verisimilitude—tales from childhood find Eason cutesily approximating adolescent befuddlement, and each triumphant catch is recorded in painstaking detail. By the end, Eason seems less like a theater-maker than a friendly former athlete doggedly recounting his glory days. Which, for Bo Eason fans, is an easy sell. The type of person who'd love to get a seat on a cross-country flight next to a chatty former NFL great will love Runt of the Litter. Others, maybe not so much.