Not a TKO, but an interesting, and certainly odd, night at the theater.
That’s the consensus among critics, who say former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson delivers an awkward, yet once-in-awhile charming spectacle in his one-man show “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” directed by Spike Lee and at the Longacre Theatre through Aug. 12.
Writing about the “lazily structured biographical tour” in The New York Times, critic Neil Genzlinger said Tyson “makes you momentarily forget how ham-handed and manipulative the show is.”
“Sure, we should save our accolades for the many people who have transcended difficult beginnings without abusing drugs, racking up a rape conviction and biting off a piece of another guy’s ear. But by the end of ‘Undisputed Truth’ you may at least be willing to grant that it would be swell if Mr. Tyson has finally found a nondestructive way to exist in the world.”
In the Toronto Star, high-minded theater critic Richard Ouzounian said “Truth” was another example of how theater uses boxing as metaphor to examine the relationship between black men and power.
“From Sammy Davis Jr. in Golden Boy to James Earl Jones in The Great White Hope... you can find a gallery of black men who are groomed to win, until it becomes more expeditious to bring about their downfall,” he wrote.
One of the oddest things about the show, Ouzounian also noted, is that it was written by Tyson’s current wife, Kiki, “and tries to make a man who is a convicted rapist come across as a charming guy.”
The New York Post’s Elizabeth Vincentelli said the show’s first hour was “funny, cheeky and fast."
Wrote Vincentelli: “Tyson also talks about his... demons, starting with Robin Givens, whom he married in 1988 and split from a year later. During their divorce proceedings, he spotted her in a car with Brad Pitt, whom she had dated before. Tyson quips that they look ‘like Robert Redford and Pearl Bailey.’”
Playbill’s opening night photos can be found here.