‘King Liz’ performs at Geffen and ‘Air Play’ at The Broadstage

Sabrina Sloan as sports agent Liz Rico, left, and Michelle Ortiz as her dedicated assistant Gabby Fuentes in “King Liz” at Geffen Playhouse. (Jeff Lorch)

By Shari Barrett

The movie Jerry Maguire is perhaps the best-known media story about a sports agent, in which the famous line “show me the money” addresses the most important element of any player’s contract. And now, thanks to the West Coast premiere of Fernanda Coppel’s KING LIZ at the Geffen Playhouse, we meet Liz Rico, a powerful sports agent who represents NBA superstars after having fought her way to the top of a male-dominated profession with her skill for cutthroat negotiations. And as she repeatedly tells us, “It’s good to be the King!”

On track to become the new owner of the Candy Agency, Liz is given the chance to sign Freddie Luna, a once-in-a-generation high school talent with a troubled past. His stats are great – so much so that after being challenged by her boss to sign the 19-year-old future superstar, Liz sees an opportunity to take her career to the next level.

But when accusations start swirling around the young phenom, Liz must decide which is more important – rebound Freddie’s career or protect her own crown?

Brilliantly directed by Jesca Prudencio in the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, powerhouse performer Sabrina Sloan commands the stage as Liz Rico, a woman so filled with her own importance there is no question she can mold the sports world to suit her own personal goals. And any of us who have worked for such a high-powered executive will appreciate the struggle of her long-time assistant Gabby Fuentes, portrayed with just the right mix of desire to please and personal contempt by Michelle Ortiz.

You can almost see the stream coming out of Gabby’s ears when Mr. Candy (Ray Abruzzo) walks in without so much as a “hello” to her on his way to exercise his own power play to get what he wants – grooming Liz to do his bidding to prove she is worthy to be his successor.

Hot tempered Freddie Luna is brought to athletic life by Evan Morris Reiser, with all the raw emotion boiling deep within his soul on full display. Oscar Best as Coach Jones effectively portrays both the professional bravado and personal longing for a deeper personal connection with Liz. Nancy Linari is the full-on media maven interviewer Barbara Flowers, dedicated to revealing the truth about Luna’s less-than-perfect past to increase her viewership.

Scenic and Video Designer Justin Humphres is to be commended for his movable set pieces that appear and disappear through the back wall as well as his informative wall projections which together keep the action moving swiftly from scene to scene. The contributions of Costume Designer Devario D. Simmons, Lighting Designer Rebecca Bonebrake, and Sound Designer Melanie Chen Cole add to the technical brilliance of this production.

“King Liz” runs through Sunday, August 14 (dark Mondays) in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles. Tickets start at $39, available by phone at 310-208- 2028 or online at geffenplayhouse.org. Proof of vaccination and masks are required. Run time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission. Please note this production contains graphic language, loud music, verbal assault, depicted violence, and discussions of difficult subject matter including suicide. Not recommended for those under the age of 14, and children under 6 years of age will not be admitted.

But do take your kids to experience AIR PLAY, a wonder-filled adventure of two siblings journeying through a surreal land of air and its power to create artistic movement. Written, created and performed by circus performers Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone (Acrobuffos) in collaboration with kinetic sculptor Daniel Wurtzel through years of experimentation with simple materials, movement, and technology, “Air Play” has been touring the world since 2015 and been seen by 150,000 people and counting. Great for ages 5 to 105.

The Acrobuffos duo creates beauty and inspires laughter across cultures and continents in a space where umbrellas fly, fabrics soar over the audience, balloons swallow people and swirl high into the air, filling the stage with a unique performance each time. With stunning images and gales of laughter, “Air Play” bounces on the edge of definition: part comedy, part sculpture, part circus, and part theater.

During the hour-long show, directed by West Hyler, it was so much fun to be part of the artistic interactive game of balloon tag through the audience, thanks to the expressive duo’s wordless clowning combined with their sheer joie de vivre while sharing the beauty of their artistic vision. With no real language spoken, only gibberish to express emotion and a true sense of childlike wonder, AIR PLAY is totally understandable in any language, encouraging audiences to experience the wonder in life by using your imagination to express it.

Performances continue this weekend on Friday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 30 at 5 p.m., and Sunday, July 31 at 11:00am on the Main Stage of The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica. Free onsite parking. Tickets are priced from $35, available by calling 310-434-3200 or online at broadstage.org Proof of vaccination, photo ID, and masks worn indoors required.