The red planet has eclipsed Venus.
At least, that’s one take-away from the stage version of John Gray’s best-selling relationship guide “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”
‘MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS LIVE!’ SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED When: Through March 5 Where: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 163 E. Chestnut Tickets: $68 Info: www.broadwayinchicago.com
The show (which includes the word “Live!” in its title), currently running at the Broadway Playhouse, comes off as so pro-male, it might make some women want to stage another March on Washington via the Broadway Playhouse.
Perhaps the show can’t help but be sexist to some extent. Part video lecture and part stand-up comedy, it features a lone male performer offering comedic riffs written by a male playwright from the works of a male author. The lone female voice in all of this is the show’s director, Mindy Cooper. I’m not sure if it is telling or an accidental omission, but Cooper is not afforded the standard bio in the Playbill. To be fair, there is a female stage hand and she does have a bio in the Playbill, but that makes the absence of a bio for the show’s female director somehow worse.
Amadeo Fusca, a winner of the Friars Club’s “So You Think You Can Roast” in 2013, is charming, likeable and brings a high amount of energy to the evening. He boarders on being manic at times, leaping back and forth on the stage. As he shares anecdotes about his wife that highlight various aspects of Gray’s work, you might question the authenticity, though. Given Eric Coble is credited with the script, it is hard to say just what is scripted or what are personal experiences. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that he refers to his Italian heritage at the top of the show and indicates we can all call him “Amadago.” It’s supposed to be self-deprecating, but some might find it highly offensive.
Consider one of the major theories of Gray’s book that is discussed in both video and comic patter in the show: Men and women release differing amounts of serotonin and dopamine when stressed. Women are nagging taskmasters and men just want to sit on the couch and watch football. It’s essentially complex human psychology boiled down to gender stereotypes. And, if there was much credence to the theory, that would make relationships between two men or two women idyllic (wouldn’t like-minded brain chemistry give homosexual couples some sort of advantage?). Sadly, relationship break-ups are as common among lesbians and gays as they are in the straight world.
The show also hammers home the notions that:
— For women, we have such words of wisdom that include “Less nagging and more shagging.” Men are told to “manscape.”
— Women keep a points tally on every little thing they do. Men make grand gestures (like two dozen roses or a trip to Cancun) for which they are credited a single point by women (it’s quantity, not quality, guys).
— Men are not completely without fault –sort of. A man sometimes reacts to a woman’s emotional meltdown with a four-step approach to that ends with him fleeing. This is all completely understandable, we are told, because men don’t understand that women expect men to surf everything from emotional low tide to Tsunami.
Fusca had one heartfelt moment in the show, recalling the moment when he realized where his then-girlfriend’s insecurities were coming from, falling that much more in love with her and deciding to propose to her as a result. That moment of believability comes to a halt with an awkward break for intermission. Everything else is played for laughs.
Perhaps I am being too sensitive as everyone around me found the show far more funny than I did. This is a good thing for something being presented as a “comedy.” It would seem that Coble’s script doesn’t take Gray’s work too seriously and that is perhaps the best thing that can be said for “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus Live!”.
Misha Davenport is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor of Broadway World Chicago.