Tyson Jabs, Chats on Broadway; Baryshnikov Shaves: Review

Mike Tyson
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is performing his one-man show at Broadway's Longacre Theatre, staged by Spike Lee. Photographer: Jerry Metellus/Sunshine Sachs P.R. via Bloomberg

Flanked by two close-in walls, Mike Tyson sits on a stool, looking cool as Sinatra in a silk blazer and tieless shirt.

“Thank you for coming, and welcome to my living room,” he told Thursday’s opening night audience. It included Sean “Diddy” Combs, Donald Trump, Dwight Gooden, CC Sabathia and Spike Lee, who directed the show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.”

Looking trim, his voice more seasoned than the lisping squeal he was known for in his boxing days, Tyson recalled growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville sections of Brooklyn -- and, to be more precise, the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx (since shut down).

“I’m domesticated now,” he confesses, but before he was 12, he’d been arrested over 30 times. The Spofford guards were like family.

The undisputed truth part of Tyson’s show runs about 45 of its 120 minutes. He talks about his popular mother, two siblings and a father he never got to know. And of course, he recalls his fated meeting with Cus D’Amato, the coach who molded him, at 20, into the youngest heavyweight champ in boxing history.

After those 45 minutes, Tyson gets down to business, settling scores with ex-wife Robin Givens and Desiree Washington, the woman whose accusation of rape sent him to jail for three years.

Not Desiree

His self-exculpation is not quite convincing (“I was a monster,” he says, just not to this particular woman).

Tyson unveiled “Undisputed Truth” in Las Vegas before Lee stepped in to shape the words Kiki Tyson was putting in her husband’s mouth. (She’s credited with the writing, which makes the parts about his exes pretty cheesy.)

And for a guy who says several times that he hates the “N” word, he gives it a bracing workout, along with “bitch,” “ho” and many F-bombs.

He often seemed winded. His run-ins with defeated fighter Mitchell Green and his reconciliation with Evander Holyfield, who sacrificed an ear to Tyson’s fame, are amusingly recounted.

On the other hand, the strategic use of his mother’s and, later, his young daughter’s deaths is heavy-handed and don’t have quite the emotional impact they’re meant to. I’m sure there’s undisputed truth in there, somewhere, too.

Through Aug. 12 at the Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St. Information: +1- 212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: **.

‘In Paris’

Mikhail Baryshnikov breathes a Chaplinesque quality into his stirring performance as an expatriate Russian general in “In Paris,” which is closing out the Lincoln Center Festival.

The great dancer has found a second life in roles he infuses with comic grace and sensibility delivered with an extremely light touch.

Based on a story by Ivan Bunin, “In Paris” concerns a proud general in the White Russian army who has decamped to the French capital in the wake of the 1917 revolution. Abandoned by his wife, he falls in love with Olga, a young waitress whose husband is fighting in Yugoslavia.

Baryshnikov narrates his tale in French and Russian as the English translation unfolds in a scrolling projection that spreads across Maria Tregubova’s simple, suggestive settings. Their unconsummated affair, anything but chaste, turns a great deal on food and movement.

Anna Sinyakina, a star of the Dmitry Krymov Laboratory, matches Baryshnikov’s sinuous interweaving of the near-slapstick and the dark. She moves about the stage, playing with a jersey dress that can turn into a formal gown, a burqa, a slinky number with a simple twist of her frame.

But it’s Baryshnikov, making physical poetry of shaving or devouring a bowl of borscht, who rivets the eye in this pas-de-deux of attraction and loneliness. The result, under the sensitive direction of Krymov, with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, is as memorable as a dream.

Through Aug. 5 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, 524 W. 59th St. Information: +1-212-875-5766; http://www.lincolncenterfestival.org. Rating: ****

What the Stars Mean:
*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Very Good
**     Good
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s New York weekend, Lewis Lapham on history and Martin Gayford on art.

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