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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Longacre Theatre


  Mike Tyson and Spike Lee/ Ph: Joseph Marzullo

No fewer than five police cars were parked outside the Longacre Theatre on the night I attended Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. An anonymous user on Twitter had supposedly made threats of shooting audience members along the lines of the recent tragedy at a Colorado showing of the new Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.

After a quick pat-down of my messenger bag by one staff member (no different than the kind of security check I would receive upon entering any other Broadway theater), I was led to my seat in the back orchestra. But just seconds later I had to run back into the lobby in light of the deafeningly loud hip-hop music then being played in the theater. (A DJ is parked in the box seats of the mezzanine.) It was not until the music died down and the show began that I dared to reenter.

Following a limited run in Las Vegas a few months ago, the former boxing champion is performing this stodgy one-man autobiographical show on Broadway for just a handful of performances. Although the reviews in Vegas weren’t all that awful, Spike Lee has stepped in as director.

At first it seemed as though no critics would be invited at all, not unlike when Kathy Griffin did a one-woman show last year. But eventually I was offered a single ticket for a performance towards the end of the run.

It’s one thing to make a short – albeit very funny – cameo in the film comedy The Hangover. But with his trademark stutter and mumbling, Mike Tyson is hardly capable of handling a two-hour monologue (written, by the way, by Tyson’s wife Kiki).

I honestly could not understand the majority of what Tyson was saying. He looked ill at ease, constantly shuffling back and forth, and unsure of what topic he was going to talk about next. He would often repeat the same line twice or more, such as when he insists that he and his ex-wife Robin Simone Givens were still having sex even while their scandalous divorce proceedings were going on. Tyson’s all too obvious anger at Givens also throws the show off track.

You’re probably wondering why Tyson agreed to do this show in the first place. Was it just for the attention, to make a quick buck, curse endlessly or make some ear jokes? But all things considered, I did sense a genuine sincerity to this messy enterprise.

Tyson, whose reputation has been branded almost entirely by acts of mad violence and media scrutiny, seemingly wants to break through all that and just talk to us about his childhood, ambitions and regrets. He also wants to, if not defend, at least explain many of his mistakes, blaming it mostly on primal urges. But don’t expect a confession regarding the charge that he raped an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant in 1991, which he continues to vehemently deny.

But without the chops to handle being onstage for a sustained period of time, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is a warning to other pop culture icons to be careful before heading off to Broadway – or any other legitimate theater. I’ll take a real actor over a heavyweight champion any day. 


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