Mike Tyson’s ‘Undisputed Truth’ at the Warner: Should you go?

World-class boxer/reprobate Mike Tyson has a one-man, autobiographical show bound for the Warner Theatre tonight and Saturday. If you're flashing back to Charlie Sheen's ego-fueled money-grab at DAR way back in 2011 -- well, it would be hard to blame you.

The two even have the similar titles: Sheen's amorphous, ill-planned gabfest was called "The Violent Torpedo of Truth." Tyson's "Undisputed Truth" rolls off the tongue a little better, but it's similarly vehement about its truthi-ness.

Former heavyweight boxing champion MikeTyson gestures during a news conference announcing his next fight, Tuesday April 12, 2005 in Washington. Tyson will fight Kevin McBride, Saturday, June 11, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz Ghanbari)
The one-time heavyweight champion of the world is now a regular on camera. But how will he do onstage?  (Haraz Ghanbari/AP)

Thankfully, it would appear the similarities end there. Filmmaker Spike Lee directs Iron Mike in his show, which unlike Sheen's production, also has a true script, written by Tyson's wife, Kiki. Over two hours, reviewers suggest, the boxer goes head-to-head with only his reputation, tracing over, arguably in his words, the most memorable milestones of his life, from his birth to his rise to heavyweight champion to his much-chronicled decline. Yes, he addresses his 1992 conviction on charges of raping a beauty pageant contestant, not to mention his drug addiction, and mind-boggling financial troubles.

There are slides. But Tyson's roller-coaster of a personal and professional life doesn't exactly need embellishment to be gripping.

With the show winding down a 10-week tour, we thought it would be fun to dig into the reviews and see precisely what theater critics have made of Tyson's tell-all. Surprisingly, some of them liked "Undisputed Truth." Unsurprisingly, a few did not:

"He came to box with himself, to thrash out his story before his fans, leaving no controversy unturned and me dazed with a sympathy I hadn't expected," Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote last month.

The New York Times was less, er, sympathetic in a 2012 review of the show's Broadway run. The Gray Lady's Neil Genzlinger wrote that Tyson "is doing little more than relating his well-publicized life story, and, under Spike Lee’s direction, he’s doing so with a clumsiness startling to see on a Broadway stage."

"He's had a life rife with great and funny stories that he tells with lots of self-deprecation, and that's all he needed to make his Tuesday night performance ... a wickedly profane, entertaining and messy bit of theater," wrote Adrienne Johnson Martin in Raleigh's News & Observer.

And finally, there was this little 2012 gem, from the New Yorker's Avi Steinberg: "Who thought that it would be a good idea to send Tyson off on a pitifully long rant about his ex-wife Robin Givens? Somewhere in the third act of this ugly little play-within-a-play, when Tyson began making sophomoric cracks at a photo of Givens’s mother, I considered standing up and booing."

Still want to go? Get tickets here.

 

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.
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