Mike Tyson enjoys performing in a new ring

CorrespondentApril 18, 2013 

Mike Tyson.

COURTESY OF NEDERLANDER

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    What: Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth

    When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

    Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St.

    Cost: $45-$74.25, 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com

Mike Tyson is calling from some location that sounds as chaotic as the life he’s led. Cellphone reception is shaky, and there are all sorts of noise in the background, as if a class of first-graders had just been let out of school. Every once in a while, Tyson mutters something unintelligible to someone nearby, then returns to the subject at hand – that subject being “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” the former pugilist’s one-man show, coming to the DPAC Tuesday.

“The stage gives me life for some reason,” Tyson says, in that strangely adolescent voice of his. “I like feeling the energy from the crowd.”

Written by Tyson’s third wife, Kiki, the show, which is on a 10-week, 36-city tour, is a combination of confessional and standup comedy. It spares nothing, from the Evander Holyfield ear chomping to the rape conviction, with stops along the way detailing his desperate Brooklyn childhood, his stay in a juvenile detention center, the messy Robin Givens marriage, and his life as the heavyweight champion of the world.

Originally produced in Las Vegas, where Tyson now lives, “Undisputed Truth” was restaged by director Spike Lee for a short Broadway run, then hit the road. “The show was originally totally different,” says Tyson. “It had a rock band. Spike made it grittier, more upclose and personal. He made me play off the characters, and get an acting coach.”

Not that that necessarily helped, since the notices haven’t exactly been kind. One reviewer said it was “like watching a flounder go 10 rounds in a boxing ring.” And the New York Times, damning with faint praise, noted that “that incongruous, almost childlike Tyson charm pokes through occasionally and makes you momentarily forget how ham-handed and manipulative the show is.”

Is Tyson discouraged by this? Not at all. He says show biz people have given him positive feedback. “We did an L.A. run and sold out three nights in a row,” Tyson says. “And what my contemporaries said was more important than anyone being vindictive. People in the stage world, the comedians who were there, my peers – their reactions were the most important.”

Tyson calls the show “a roller coaster of emotions – you’re happy, you’re sad, you’re concerned,” and says that “every day I’m adding new things, I’m ad libbing, you get different responses.” He admits that he sometimes lets audience reaction determine what he does, that “I get caught up with people laughing at me,” and that “my wife (who travels with him) has to say ‘Mike, come over here and talk about this, you’re doing too much, reel it in.’”

Now 46, with the fighting life behind him, Tyson feels he’s in a really good place, traveling with his family and exorcising his many demons. “I hope I’m learning to be a better father in life, a person of dignity and respect,” he says. “I hope to be the champ of moral accomplishment.”

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