Theater Review: KING JAMES (Mark Taper Forum)

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by Tony Frankel on June 9, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles


Center Theatre Group’s winning new dramady King James — a co-production with Chicago’s Steppenwolf Company — is a must see for more than just rabid sports fans. Nobody writes a tale of two straight boys in a bromance better than Rajiv Joseph (Guards at the Taj). And his two-hander, which opened last night at the Mark Taper Forum, features the top notch dynamic duo of Glenn Davis and Chris Perfetti as an unlikely friendship that fuels the very relatable action at the show’s heart. These terrific performers absolutely give a winning assist to each other.

This funnier-than-it-needed-to-be tour de force romp begins in a neighborhood wine bar where two strangers, a down on his luck bartender and a fan looking to buy championship tickets from him, forge an unlikely friendship over their shared love for all things sports — specifically their affinity for player “King” LeBron James.

For a little backstory on the illustrious player, LeBron Raymone James signed a $90 million sponsorship deal with Nike at age 18, making him the highest paid player at the time. All Ohio was behind him until signing with Miami in 2010 turned him from hometown hero to villain overnight. Four years later, LeBron returned to Cleveland where he lead the Cavaliers to four straight NBA Finals appearances. LeBron became the only player in the NBA to ever win an NBA Championship with three different franchises as the Finals MVP. However, this really is the B story plot point. The A Story focuses on the men and their unique bond.

Set at various points over a decade, the real “meat and potatoes” of the narrative is the pendulum that swings between the two men. Sports fandom aside, neither proved simultaneously professionally successful. Todd Rosenthal’s incredibly detailed set design will astound. From the initial bar setting to an Act II second hand store — both thriving, then on the verge of closing — the actors are well served by their surroundings. Samantha C. Jones’s real world costuming adds subtle depth as to the character’s status as well. As writer Shawn, Davis demonstrates landing his dream gig, a Hollywood television writer, isn’t as golden as it outwardly appears. Being the only man of color on the writing staff, developing stories for a vapid Cop Drama isn’t fulfilling his soul as he had hoped. Perfetti counters with self-esteem issues and a terse relationship with his (offstage) parents, then jealousy as his friend Shawn effortlessly bonds with both of his friend’s parents right under his nose. Spoiling nothing, their story’s ending is as satisfying for the audience as it was for both characters.

Not only do I recommend this show, I also recommend arriving early as pre-show DJ Khloe Janel will have you tapping a toe and smiling from ear to ear before the first words of dialog are ever uttered.

photos of Glenn Davis and Chris Perfetti  © 2022 Craig Schwartz Photography

King James
Center Theatre Group
a co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave. in Downtown L.A.
Tues-Fri at 8; Sat at 2:30 and 8; Sun at 1 & 6:30
ends on July 3, 2022
for tickets ($59-$175), call 213.628.2772 or visit CTG

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