4/19/2013, 6 a.m.
If ever there was a true story that could hold the attention of an audience for nearly two hours without an intermission, it would be that of boxing icon-turned punch line-turned-professional entertainer Mike Tyson.
Since becoming a pop culture phenom nearly 30 years ago, Tyson has gone from the pinnacle to the pits and back again as the world watched. Last year, he decided to give his side of the story in front of an audience – while forging a new career path outside of the ring.
The one-man stage show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” comes to the Fox Theatre this weekend as part of 36-city tour of the play that reveals Tyson’s meteoric rise and fall as the most feared man in boxing.
In the play, Tyson shares details about his storied life against a backdrop of video and photos, eliciting passion, empathy and emotion.
“They'll laugh and cry,” the boxer said in an interview from his Las Vegas home. “I give them all of me.”
The play, written by his wife, Kiki, and directed by Spike Lee, Tyson takes the audience on a journey that starts with his birth at a Brooklyn hospital and continues with a boxing career that began when he was barely a teenager.
Through his narrative, the audience learns explicit details of what most of the audience already knew – that Tyson was forced to grow up harsh, and in a hurry.
What they may not have known – or expected – is that Tyson is able to look back at most of his experiences and laugh now that the lessons have finally penetrated.
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is filled with profanity and styled in the likes of urban comedy circuit bits that use laughter as medicine for real-life pain. Not even his birth certificate was safe as he pondered the man whose last name he bears – a man who Tyson says is by no means his father.
At its best moments, the production is charming and penetrating, as it forges an even deeper connection with the audience that curiously waited to see what Tyson would expose about his tumultuous life.
He shamelessly turned the punch lines around on himself and other personalities forever tied to Tyson’s tumultuous cautionary tale – like Robin Givens, her mother and former boyfriend Brad Pitt, Don King and his rape accuser, Desiree Washington.
And he fearlessly embraced unlikely elements of the show – including choreographed moments that ranged from ballet, to booty popping and roundhouse kicks. One couldn’t help but root for Tyson as he appeared to have come full circle from the raging boxing machine he was once believed to be.
The show was not without its weak links, however. Most notably was Tyson’s inability to slow down and lean into the story he was telling. Plenty of moments within the play felt rushed and stumbled over as Tyson struggled to fight distraction – and nerves – throughout the performance.
Another shortcoming of the show was the story itself. What could have been a streamlined transcendence from tragedy to triumph was poorly transitioned and disproportionate with respect to the ostentatious elements of Tyson’s life experiences.