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King Liz

  • Theater, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

King Liz: Theater review by Diane Snyder

Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t immunize one against gender discrimination, especially in the male-dominated field of professional sports. In King Liz, Fernanda Coppel looks at the choices and compromises a powerful African-American basketball agent makes to try to reach the top. Her ball-busting lead is a winning center, but Coppel crams so much plot into this modest two-hour venture that her other characters have scant room for expansion.

Liz Rico (Disgraced’s Karen Pittman) pulled herself out of the projects, graduated from Yale and, over two decades, has worked to become a partner in a leading sports agency. With the top dog (Michael Cullen) soon to retire, Liz has a shot at succeeding him—if she can win over the board. To that end, she’s tasked with making an NBA player out of Freddie Luna (Jeremie Harris), a star high school player with a temper and a troubled past. Liz doesn’t think he’s ready for the big time, although she woos and signs him. Then the challenges really begin.

Despite some revealing scenes between Liz and Freddie, Coppel takes a semi-predictable route, right down to the former’s win-at-all-costs approach to her career, and even with a strong ensemble, including Irene Sofia Lucio as Liz’s put-upon and put-down assistant, Lisa Peterson’s production can’t reconcile the comedy with the weight of the story. Still, this is a fine showcase for Pittman, who, like Liz, is at the top of her game, bringing fire and ice to a character laden with contradictions. (And she looks great in costume designer Jessica Pabst’s body-hugging dresses.) Like its title character, however, King Liz needs a playbook all its own.—Diane Snyder

McGinn/Cazale Theatre (Off Broadway). By Fernanda Coppel. Directed by Lisa Peterson. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission.

Follow Diane Snyder on Twitter: @DianeLSnyder


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