Playwright Fernanda Coppel’s “King Liz,” which made its world premiere off-Broadway earlier this summer, is in development as a TV series set up at Showtime.
Directed by Lisa Peterson, the Second Stage Theatre Uptown production officially opened on July 27, and starred Karen Pittman, Jeremie Harris, Michael Cullen, Russell G. Jones, Caroline Lagerfelt and Irene Sofia Lucio.
The play revolves around sports agent Liz Rico (played by Karen Pittman in the off-Broadway staging – photo above), a woman at the top of her game in what has traditionally been a man’s industry, with the with money and an elite client roster, but who still has to fight hard to stay on top, because she’s a woman. She’s worked twice as hard to get where she is and wants to take over the agency that she’s helped build. Enter Freddie Luna (played by Jeremie Harris – photo above), a high school basketball superstar with a troubled past. If Liz can keep this talented yet volatile young star in line, she just might end up making not only his career, but her own as well. The question is, at what price?
Reviews of the play’s off-Broadway staging were generally mixed-to-positive (at least the handful that I read), with the New York Times saying: “As portrayed with fierce and compelling focus by Karen Pittman, Liz Rico, the heroine of “King Liz,” a new play by Fernanda Coppel, is as powerfully smart as she is powerfully sexy… Ms. Coppel’s engrossing if sometimes formulaic drama… explores the pressures that Liz comes under as an independent black woman in a field generally dominated by – well, not black women, independent or otherwise. Ms. Coppel’s dialogue is finely honed, her characters drawn with a keen sense of both their forceful drives and inner conflicts. The sharp direction by Lisa Peterson, with a sleek corporate-office set by Dane Laffrey, keeps the pacing taut.”
BUT… there’s always a “but”… the reviewer (Charles Isherwood) goes on to say, “Where ‘King Liz’ disappoints is in its sometimes ham-handed plotting…” with variations of the word “formulaic” used at least once, and specific examples given.
Overall, he liked the play, praising star Karen Pittman’s performance as the glue that keeps the production together.
Other reviews I read were variations of the above summary.
Nevertheless, the subject matter definitely has my attention, and I’d love to see what comes of it as a potential TV series.
The announcement of the Showtime adaptation (courtesy of Deadline) does not say whether the off-Broadway cast will make the transfer to the TV serial.