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Lanise Shelly (center) plays a powerful NBA Sports agent with Eric Gerard (left), a baskeball player, and Phillip Edward Van Lear as Coach in “King Liz.”

When you think of successful sports agents, you think of the great Tom Condon, Arn Tellem and Scott Boras. These are the Jerry Maguire’s of the sports world. They are known as the good agents who have proven they are the kings when it comes to getting it all for their players. However, a great agent gets the players even more. Before any athlete can think of making millions, they need to be sure their agent has the “I can do it” mentality or the athlete’s rags to riches dream can be over before it even starts.

In the latest stage play at Windy City Playhouse, this cut-throat profession, which is typically an all-male dominated field, has been invaded by another king and this one is wearing stilettos.

Director Chuck Smith has done it again with another powerful portrayal of how difficult life can be for those seeking to get it all at any cost. This well-written saga by Fernanda Coppel called “King Liz” is about an empowered woman emerging on the court and becoming a game changer in the sports agency field. This up-and-coming female sports agent can hold her own against any man in the business and has the tenacity to go toe-to-toe with her toughest male counterpart to get the NBA deal signed.

There’s nothing more captivating and heroic than seeing a Black woman as the underdog beating the old boys network in their own game. “King Liz” delivers an exciting look at what actually happens in the world of an independent female sports agent who proves she can be a king in a field that only sees her as an assistant.

“King Liz” does a remarkable job of taking us on a journey between Liz, the sports agent, and Freddy, the want-to-be famous basketball player. This strong woman with an   in-your-face attitude also has the moral epiphany to take a risk to help this over-indulged rookie with an over-inflated ego succeed in his career.

Continuously faced with extra challenges of being a woman coupled with the turmoil of trying to get this ill-tempered rookie to forge into a relationship of trust, she tries to use a woman’s touch but things change when she gets lost within her own goals of climbing up the ladder. Fame has a price and she learns this when she has to make a decision that goes against her principles. With her desire to be famous, she learns how much that price can cost when she makes a pivotal decision to further her career.

Brenda and Rick

Sean Hampton wrote that “A dream without ambition is like a car with no gas…you’re not going anywhere.”  King Liz reminds us that ambitiously seeking to become successful can get us all things we desire but at a cost of losing the things we need…happiness.       

“King Liz” introduces us to some very ambitious and passionate characters in the play by peeling back the layers in their lives. All of the characters do a marvelous job of convincing us that this is how the sports world operates between agent, player and team. Liz Rico, who is played by Lanise Shelley, is a very convincing and talented actress. She dominates this role and we predict she is a rising star. Her role as a powerful NBA sports agent in a high-profile, male-dominated position who is torn between fighting for her dreams and working endlessly to receive a promotion is compelling.

Freddy Luna, played by Eric Gerard, is very persuasive as he brings a lot of realism to his pivotal hoopster character. Freddy is a young, eager aspiring basketball player with a very sketchy past, and no matter how hard he tries to move beyond it, it continues to haunt him in his new world of fame. His only dream is to take care of his mother and siblings so they can have a better life outside of the projects; but he soon realizes the perils of NBA success brings out more than his phenomenal talent on the court—it prompts his hot temper off of the court!   

Gabby Fuentes, who is played by Jackie Alamillo, is another go-getter character determined to learn from the best (Liz Rico) to make her mark as a woman in the NBA sports world. As Liz’s assistant, she strives endlessly for success but doesn’t get any recognition. She desires to become an agent, further her career and gain a book of clients in this ruthless, cut-throat business—and she plays her role to perfection.

King Liz is the Harlem Globe Trotter of equal rights and proves that a woman can achieve success within any male-dominant field.

We both believe that the ending could have been better, but overall the play highlighted some key points in the agency world of sports and what a woman can achieve given the opportunity. We recommend that you go out and get courtside seats to see how this play unfolds.

The cast of King Liz includes:

Lanise Shelley (Liz Rico)

Eric Gerard (Freddy Luna)

Jackie Alamillo (Gabby Fuentes)

Phillip Edward Van Lear (Coach Jones)

Frank Nall (Mr. Candy)

Caron Buinis (Barbara Flowers)

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