Review: Fandom and Friendship for the Win in KING JAMES at The Old Globe

Playing through March 31

By: Mar. 18, 2024
Review: Fandom and Friendship for the Win in KING JAMES at The Old Globe
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“King James” is a funny, heartwarming look at fandom, friendship, and how sometimes the unlikeliest people can become irreplaceable members of your life.  “King James” is playing at The Old Globe through March 31st.

The show opens in a wine bar where Matt (Caleb Foote) prepares to open for the day when Shawn (Joshua Echebiri) arrives interested in purchasing the Cavalier’s season tickets Matt has for sale.  They don’t know each other, but they have one thing in common - they love their hometown team and are excited for LeBron James in his rookie season.

Matt and his Dad have attended the games for years, but due to his father’s health issues and Matt’s need for some quick cash, he is up for selling the tickets.  But he is also waiting to sell them to someone who isn’t a fair-weather fan, he wants them to go to someone who loves this game as much as he does.  Shawn has a passion for the team and the game, but not the amount of cash Matt is asking for - and as they banter, negotiate, and argue about basketball their friendship starts to develop.

It’s a buddy comedy between people with very different lived experiences.  Matt is a guy who has been bailed out by his parents when things go wrong including giving him these tickets to sell. Shawn is a budding writer interested in buying the tickets to fulfill a childhood promise he made to himself to attend a live game once he could afford it.  Their life experiences are very different, but both have something to prove to the world, and they share a deep love for the game and their team.

 Basketball kicks off both the play and the friendship, but this show is truly a look at friendship and how it can help someone navigate the highs and lows of life. Told through four acts the show follows the development of their friendship (and their complicated handshakes) and LeBron’s career over the years.  The game is the gateway used to express themselves, their hopes, victories, and defeats to each other.

Review: Fandom and Friendship for the Win in KING JAMES at The Old Globe

In the beginning, they are young and trying to figure out who they are, who they want to be, and how to make that happen. As the years go by, their connection to each other deepens as they connect with each other’s families, and support each other during the highs and lows.

Echebiri is likable and warm as Shawn.  He is smart and isn’t afraid of hard work or making the best of the detours life has thrown his way.  Though more grounded in reality from Matt from the beginning, he longs for a touch of success from his passion for writing.

Foote as Matt is a dreamer, just now having to navigate the disappointment of not having a parental safety net after relying on them one too many times. Smart, nerdy, and a bit obtuse but his genuine love of his friendship with Shawn is evident.  

 Written by Rajiv Joseph, and directed by Justin Emeka this show has a fun and loving energy, and the physicality of the guys talking and playing imaginary basketball feels natural and has the audience cheering or groaning as shots are made or missed. Like a high-stakes game, the play has moments of success, heartbreak, and confrontation. 

At one point in the show, there is a debate about the team Lebron had in Miami vs. Cleveland, and why one team won so many championships.  This also highlights how solid this production team is for everything to work so well together to get such a warm, and real, feeling relationship on stage. 

Review: Fandom and Friendship for the Win in KING JAMES at The Old Globe

The scenic design by Lawrence E. Moten III brings a charming wine bar and then a crowded and well-loved antiques store to life.  Sound design by Lindsay Jones integrates game-time commentary from LeBron’s games, and lighting design by Abigail Hoke-Brady completes building this world. Costumes by Sarita Fellows showcase each character's moment in life clearly and at a glance.

I’ll be honest; I know nothing about basketball. The good news is that you don’t need to know anything about basketball - this show is delightfully entertaining celebrating the enduring love of friendship.

How To Get Tickets

“King James” is playing at The Old Globe through March 31st.  For ticket and showtime information go to www.theoldglobe.org

Photo Credit: Caleb Foote as Matt and Joshua Echebiri as Shawn in “King James”, 2024. Photo by Rich Soublet II.




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