BWW Reviews: Hodges & Hodges Review MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH
The gloves came off last night as Mike Tyson took center stage at San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre in his one-man-show entitled Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. The theatre was jam-packed with more men than we'd ever seen at a theatrical production -- big burly men and small wiry ones -- making it seem as if we were at a World Boxing Council convention rather than a Broadway show. (Not that men don't enjoy the theatre, but you know what we mean.)
As the curtain went up, loud cheers erupted and suddenly there he was, seated center stage in a pose reminiscent of Rodin's The Thinker - a single shaft of light shining down on the man who was once the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Now he was here to tell his undisputed truth - as he saw it. He sat there not moving while the strains of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" played softly in the background, the words hauntingly telling. "There was a boy/ A very strange, enchanted boy..." What followed was really something - and Hodges and Hodges were there ringside to capture it all as Tyson laughed and cried us through the story of his life. Review follows.
Nick: I wasn't prepared to laugh as much as I did. Tyson has great comedic timing!
Linda: He was off-the-hook hilarious, which was truly unexpected. It's clear that the audience really wasn't sure what was going to happen. His wife, book writer Kiki Tyson, did a great job with the script, mixing pathos, street talk and raw truth with moments of sublime insight as well as humor.
Nick: When he started out by saying, "I know many of you are wondering, 'What the hell is Mike Tyson going to talk about for two hours," he brought down the house.
Linda: And when he shared the title that he really wanted for his show, "Boxing, Bitches and Lawsuits," he got another big laugh. What a life. The sheer amount of vulgarity, sexual promiscuity and run-ins with the law that defined him for so long was astounding. But there it was. I have to say, I had to bite my tongue (no ears tonight) at the rampant misogynistic overtones and lack of taking responsibility, but hey, that was Mike Tyson before he got clean and sober and found Islam.
Nick: Director Spike Lee did a dynamic job taking the show through its paces, never flinching in his quest for truth-telling. The minimalist use of vintage photos and footage tied it all together. I especially liked the footage of him with his beloved homing pigeons. But the best part was just Tyson telling it all.
Linda: Yes. There was a lot of self-inflicted ugliness in Tyson's life - and that's there - but we also get to see the little boy who was bullied so badly that he couldn't take it anymore and snapped, eventually becoming a bully himself. I mean, what was it like to live in Brooklyn with a high squeaky voice and a lisp on top of it? But he came back punching - and stealing and generally getting into a lot of trouble. That led to him being arrested 30 times by the time he was 12.
Nick: But it was while he was locked up that a visit to the detention center from Mohamed Ali changed his life. Tyson knew he always wanted to be great in the neighborhood but he thought that it would be for gang-banging or drug dealing etc. With Ali's visit his vision expanded. Things started happening after that. People in the detention center gym noticed that he had something special. Soon he met Cus D'Amato - the trainer and mentor who would change his life.
Linda: What an amazing bond the two of them forged. They were forever intertwined and linked by a dream that was bigger than the two of them. They were a knockout combination punch if ever there was one.
Nick: The audience really enjoyed his imitation of D'Amato. Scrunching up his face and leaning forward he quoted D'Amato saying, "Mike, the way you fight your fights is the way you live your life."
Linda: Sublime. Let's talk about the staging. It was loose and flexible, allowing for Tyson to move about freely, shadow-boxing around, crisscrossing back and forth and making sudden darts at the audience. This made it hard for the person on spotlight to follow him, creating a jagged feel at times, but perhaps contributing to the spontaneity of the performance. Though I have to say, the problems he had with his ear-piece detracted.
Nick: Yeah, that was a definite problem. But back to the staging. He was all over the place, reflecting in his movements the rage, fear and fractiousness of his former life. He seemed most at ease when he was riffing a mouthful of profanity to make his point, completely charming his audience, who clearly loved the fact that he wasn't kowtowing to the way he "should be." This was straight-up Mike Tyson unplugged telling things his way.
Linda: Unplugged for sure. And it was more than clear that at many pivotal moments in his life he was also unhinged. It often spelled his downfall.
Nick: But he's always come back fighting.
Linda: Not this last time. But he did come back winning, as his buddy Charlie Sheen would say. Mike Tyson is clean and sober now, with a lovely wife and beautiful children. The final words of Nat King Cole's Nature Boy," put a coda on the whole show. "One magic day he passed my way/While we spoke of many things/Fools and Kings/This he said to me/The greatest thing you'll ever learn/is just to love and be loved in return." Like his pigeons, he's finally come home to roost.