Mike Tyson to debut onstage in one-man Vegas show about himself
"Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth -- Live on Stage" will run April 13-18 in the 740-seat Hollywood Theatre, offering the man himself telling what it's like to have been feared, reviled and pitied in a career that may be boxing's answer to Sophocles' "Oedipus" cycle.
The director and co-writer (with Tyson's wife, Kiki), is L.A.-based playwright Randy Johnson, creator of "Elvis the Concert" and "One Night With Janis Joplin."
Tyson has already won acclaim for telling his own story on screen in "Tyson," the 2009 documentary by James Toback (pictured with Tyson).
In it, as Times film critic Kenneth Turan wrote, virtually the only voice heard was that of the fallen champ, "holding you spellbound with his thoughts on his past. The result is as gripping as a title fight and as mesmerizing as a conversation with a cobra. You may not be happy with everything said, but you will not be bored."
Johnson said Friday that he avoided seeing "Tyson," opting instead to spend many hours talking with his subject, then crafting a script and a sequence that he said will allow for a written question or two from the audience.
Video and live music will augment the evening. "It's a theater piece, not a lecture, but a real one-man show," Johnson said, along the lines of stage monologue evenings such as Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking" and William Shatner's "Shatner's World: We All Just Live In It."
Don't look for any onstage shadowboxing, the director said. "Mimicking boxing would be very cheesy. We're keeping this authentic."
For Culture Monster readers who haven't brushed up on their pugilism,Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion at age 20 in 1986, spent the next three years as one of the most feared and devastating forces ever to step in the ring, then was knocked out in early 1990 by Buster Douglas, a 40-1 underdog. Next came a 1991-92 arrest and conviction for rape, followed by three years in prison.
Tyson's post-release comeback attempt turned into a pathetic joke in 1997 when, losing a bout to Evander Holyfield, he bit off a chunk of his foe's ear.
Lately he's been making celebrity rounds in a Comedy Central roast of Charlie Sheen and an Animal Planet show based on one of his childhood passions, raising pigeons.That gives the stage-performer-to-be something in common with Marlon Brando, whose character in "On the Waterfront" was another beaten pug from Brooklyn who took solace in his pigeons.
The MGM Grand, by the way, is the scene of one of Tyson's most infamous moments -- it was at the resort's arena that he bit off that chunk of Holyfield's ear.
If Tyson wants stage-acting tips, we suspect they probably won't be coming from his ex, Robin Givens, who recently starred at the Pasadena Playhouse in "Blues for an Alabama Sky," giving a well-received performance as a down-and-out singer in Depression-era Harlem.
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Mike Tyson in 2009, with "Tyson" documentary maker James Toback. Credit: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times