New York: The sweat, the combativeness and even the body blows feel mighty real, but the fight itself is pure fantasy in "Tyson vs. Ali," a sleek mixed-media meditation on a boxing bout that never was, and never could have been. Currently bobbing and weaving around a simulated ring at the 3LD Art & Technology Center in Lower Manhattan, the production is conceived and directed by Reid Farrington, who deftly splices together video footage and live performance to offer a prismatic take on a theoretical matchup of Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, two of the great names in boxing history.
Presented as part of the Coil festival, the show stars four committed actors - Dennis A. Allen II, Roger Casey, Femi Olagoke and Jonathan Swain - who take turns portraying the title characters, as well as some of their fiercest opponents. Thanks to their collectively and individually charismatic presence, and Farrington's seamless integration of movement and video, "Tyson vs. Ali" is always watchable, even when it's sometimes opaque (unless you happen to know a lot about the history of boxing).
For all its physical exuberance - the actors often appear to pummel one another with an intensity that you half expect to draw blood - Farrington's approach to the material is primarily cerebral, inspired by his fascination with the psychology of boxing and boxers.