Monday, August 10, 2015

King Liz ***

Karen Pittman, so good recently in “Disgraced” both off and on Broadway, is the main reason to see this soapy sports drama by Fernanda Coppel (Chimichangas and Zoloft) at Second Stage Uptown. Pittman plays Liz Rico, an African-American woman in her 40s who has moved from life in the projects to the top ranks of sports agents. When her boss Mr. Candy (Michael Cullen) urges her to recruit Freddie Luna (an excellent Jeremie Harris), a high school kid from Red Hook with a juvie record, she follows her ambition rather than her judgment. Things do not turn out well for either of them. There is a subplot about romance between Liz and Coach Jones (a fine Russell G. Jones). Some of the better moments depict Liz’s rough relationship with Gabby Fuentes (Irene Sofia Lucio), her ambitious assistant. Caroline Lagerfelt plays Barbara Flowers, an allegedly friendly TV interviewer. Some of the writing is heavy-handed and the second act drifts toward melodrama, but the quality of Pittman’s performance makes it worth seeing. It’s never less than lively. Dane Laffrey’s sleek set is attractive and flexible. Jessica Pabst’s costumes are apt. Lisa Peterson’s direction is assured. Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including intermission.

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