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It's All About King Liz
As an empowered, determined, female sports agent, Liz Rico exhibits more than a bit of royalty
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   Not to be overlooked, though, is the strong appeal of a supporting cast who performs with distinction, beginning with TV and movie personality Philip Edward Van Lear in the role of Coach Jones, a troubled authoritarian who wanted management to draft another player and sees Luna as nothing more than a publicity stunt who eventually could cost him his job. Eric Gerard superbly presents Freddie as a self-important, immature hothead, one who misses a business meeting and loses a $70 million shoe contract because he was “hanging out with my boys.” Jackie Alamillo as Gabby Fuentes, Liz’s ever-present assistant for five years, is an ambitious sort who studies Liz’s every move that might come in handy to shape her own future possibilities. The group is rounded out by the brief but all-important performances of Caron Buinis and Frank Nall. 
   Smith, one of theater’s most noted directors, keeps the show moving at a comfortable pace, and contributions by Courtney O’Neill (scenic design), Elsa Hiltner (costume design), Jared Gooding (lighting design) and Thomas Dixon (sound design) dramatically elevate the action on stage.
   In King Liz, the focus is on an independent black woman who is succeeding where, some say, she doesn’t even belong. For more than two decades, though, she has dealt with the complexities, rose above the unexpected and played the games that sports agents play to get the best for her clients. Hers has been a roller coaster ride of excruciating emotions. But in the end, as Liz says, “It’s good to be King.”
​  THE eye-opening play, King Liz (at Windy City Playhouse through July 16) presents an illuminating glimpse into the grueling world of sports agents, with the spotlight on one of the business’ most successful personalities, who again has to prove her worthiness to be a viable part of this practically all-male arena. 
   As a self-confident woman with an overbearing personality and one who sometimes exhibits boorish behavior, Liz Rico has had some uphill battles, but for 23 years––23 years––she has gotten the job done, and now she has to convince the company’s board of directors that she is the one who should become its new CEO, replacing her mentor who’s opting for retirement. Her task to remind the board why she is so invaluable? Convince a troubled Brooklyn high school basketball phenomenon why he should choose the Candy Agency to represent him as he begins his pro basketball career.
   That’s Liz’s forte. Freddie Luna’s basketball skills are unquestioned (“the best to come out of Red Hook since Carmelo Anthony”), but he has some personal baggage that requires Liz’s exceptional expertise to navigate the pitfalls that, not surprisingly, pop up along the way for the hot-tempered 19-year-old. 
   Written by Fernanda Coppel and directed by Chicago-favorite Chuck Smith, King Liz showcases the immense talents of Lanise Shelley, who brings a certain degree of fire and energy to a character who knows she has to be smarter and more skillful than her male colleagues. As a graduate of Harvard University with a Master of Fine Arts, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts and with her completion of programs at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, the Haitian-born actress (with TV credits that include Chicago Fire) already has displayed her enormous skills throughout Chicagoland at such venues as Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lookingglass Theater, American Repertory Theater and the Goodman Theatre.
Lanise Shelley, Philip Edward Van Lear (right) and Eric Gerard in Windy City Playhouse's King Liz.
As her assistant, Jackie Alamillo, looks on, Liz takes drastic measures with her young client. 
The performance schedule for King Liz is Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 3 p.m. For a detailed performance schedule, go to www.windycityplayhouse.com/King-Liz. Tickets range from $15-$55––with discounts available for seniors and students––and can be purchased by calling 773/891-8985 or visiting www.windycityplayhouse.com.
–– Walter Leavy