Mike Tyson at the Cadillac Palace Theater
Another Mike Tyson Knockout: Former boxing champ brings his “Undisputed Truth” to the Windy City
Two nights at the Cadillac Palace Theater
February 15, 2013
With Spike Lee directing him in “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” the former boxing legend has also given audiences permission to laugh with him—without dangerous repercussion. “I promise,” he joked, upon opening the show, “you’ll leave here with both ears!”
Billed as a “personal look inside the life and mind of one of the most feared men ever to wear the heavyweight crown,” “Undisputed Truth,” enjoyed a successful run on Broadway at the MGM in Las Vegas. His wife, Kiki, wrote Tyson’s one-man show.
Without my giving too much away Tyson chronicles the ups and attempts to clarify the more publicized downs, as well as the wins and loses, of a once stellar boxing career. Tyson’s journey plays out in such a way that if we weren’t quite committed before the show, we begin to root that his redemption leads to triumph. This show is living documentation that Tyson has achieved both.
During his retelling of an experience with boxer Mitch “Blood” Green, I nearly wet my pants laughing. Most times, Tyson’s comedic timing was impeccable. Where he needs a little more work are during those poignant moments, such as when recounting the death of his daughter Exodus at age four. Clearly, his life shifted from this painful incident. Had he lingered on the subject a bit more, not necessarily feeling obliged to speak, but to let the words settle upon out hearts as they did his, at the time, the tears welling in my eyes would actually have fallen to my chest.
Mind you, there are no right or wrong answers in acting, but some character choices are better than others.
When analyzing how to maximize Tyson’s acting range, one can only speculate what Lee said to keep him on pointe. I can only hope he spoke something similar to what Geoffrey Rush told Colin Firth’s character in the brilliant movie The King’s Speech. After Rush’s Lionel Logue helps King George VI overcome a speech impediment, the king prepares to give his first wartime radio broadcast. Logue standing nearby encourages him, “Forget everything else and say it to me, as a friend.” This is why, in my opinion, monologues are much harder to perform than dialogs: Because you’ve got to find that space as an actor where you must ensure you’re talking to somebody, and not to thin air. Otherwise, the moment comes off as trivial, like you’re not speaking to anyone in particular. Great orators, as well as actors, know this truth all too well.
Fortunately, Tyson gets to hone his acting chops while also recounting his own life, so that relating to the role is one less battle he has to endure. This is a luxury most actors don’t usually have. However, they’d better act like it is!
Watching Tyson’s, and any other actor’s performance, all we have to go on is what they give us onscreen, onstage, etc., to effectively convey their story. In the case of Oscar-winning performances, we’re amazed at the results. Daniel Day Lewis did it in My Left Foot, for example, as did Ben Kingsley in House of Sand and Fog, and Christophe Waltz in Inglourious Bastards.
While there was never a time Tyson’s performance wasn’t believable, there were moments when I felt he struggled to stay in “character. As the show opened to the tune of Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy,” with Tyson sitting like Rodin’s “The Thinker,” this scene should’ve serve as what we actors call “the moment before.” In other words, had he really been thinking deeply about something—anything—the first 15 minutes wouldn’t have progressed like a PowerPoint presentation.
Of course, as the show advanced Tyson became more comfortable. Some of his best moments—and there were many—came when he truly absorbed the words he was saying instead of how he was saying them. Especially since even Tyson himself confessed to not being a particularly educated man, his late mentor Cus D’Amato taught him how to read and write. His Ivy League college-bound kids, he said, tease him about his spelling. Tyson taking the stage took great courage. Acting is hard—or else everyone would be doing it. Never did I think I’d hear Tyson utter the word “erudite.” Yet so as long as he’s comfortable not speaking his own words, he might as well stage his next reading to Shakespeare.
Hey, if he could go from being the son of “Curly the Pimp” to boxing world’s $400,000,000 man, anything is possible. Really, if Tyson keeps this façade up, in time, he will grow Tony Award worthy. Much to his credit, Tyson in Lee’s absence from the Chicago engagement gave a bang-up performance. “Iron Mike” threw a rock-solid hit that left the audience standing.
Cindy Barrymore, Photographer and 24/7 Content Contributor
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