In a wonderful one-man show, writer and actor John Posey portrays a cast of characters from a small Georgia town where nearly everyone obsesses over one thing: football, especially the local high school’s games. With much humor drawn from real people, “Father, Son & Holy Coach” explores a father-son relationship and questions the place for an ex-athlete in society.
Johnny Sanford looks back on his and his father’s lives now that his dad, Ed, has passed away. Once a prized high-school football player, Ed became the h.s. coach in Tupelo County, Ga., where “the stadium is more expensive than the school.”
Many radios tune into Wally Pepper, the local sportscaster whose motto is “when sports break out, I break in.”
In this town, young men “did not exist” if they did not play football — and win. Johnny grew up with sayings by Knute Rockne and consuming control by his father who wanted more than anything for his son to be the local hero. Johnny’s mother stayed in the background, offering advice through needlepoint sayings.
In such a universe, Johnny cannot help but feel less than perfect, though he tries to do his best to reach the ideal, embodied in town favorite son, Wil Perry.
Perry went on to an incredible pro career that included three trips to the Super Bowl. Forced to retire, he came back to Tupelo Country to run a car dealership.
The growing tension and conflict center around Johnny’s discovery there’s more to life and love than just a game with an oblong ball. When Johnny needs counseling about a young woman he is dating, Ed brings the topic back to the sport. Johnny starts learning to be independent.
Posey slips into each character effortlessly, never telegraphing the humor and always keeping the center tuned to Johnny’s serious and trusting soul.
Director Stephen Rothman aptly paces the action, pulling out of his performer a spectrum of feelings while allowing the material to ride on the honest underlying themes.
Posey is framed by a simple set (design is uncredited). Jim Moody’s complex light design subtly reinforces each scene. The sound design, by Nick Omana and Nova Prods., allows Posey to interact with his own voices at times.
Film rights to “Father, Son and Holy Coach” have been bought by Tri-Star Pictures.