The dynamics of couplehood have changed quite a bit in the 21 years since John Gray wrote his best-seller, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus,” said actor Peter Story, who performs a one-man show based on the book.
“There are times that I find I’m the Venusian and my wife, Megan, is the Martian. And same sex couples are more visible than they’ve ever been. But the principles of Dr. Gray’s book and how to navigate a relationship are the same,” Story said. “They remain universal.”
Story, who has been touring with the show since April, will bring “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus Live” to Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre for one performance at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Developed in Holland in 2007 and expanded to Paris, the show has tickled the funny bones of more than a million Europeans before coming to America this past February. Award-winning playwright Eric Coble, whose “The Velocity of Autumn” hit Broadway this fall starring Estelle Parsons and Steven Spinella, adapted the North American version.
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“It’s a fusion of theater, stand-up comedy and multimedia with some Pixar-type animation, but it has the look and feel of stand-up to most audiences,” said Story, a Tulsa native who is a veteran of prime-time TV in such shows as “CSI,” “Without a Trace” and “Ugly Betty” as well as “Days of Our Lives” in daytime. Story also has a long history of regional stage work in his ten years on the West Coast and is closing in on his 1,000th performance with Timothy Busfield’s B Street Theatre in Sacramento.
“I would definitely describe myself as an actor first, although I’ve dabbled in stand-up. But I’d probably list myself under the umbrella of ‘storyteller.’ That’s what actors do – we’re storytellers,” said Story, who also is an acting coach and teacher in Los Angeles between roles.
The animated portion of the show features original author Gray and cartoon images of the central Martian husband and Venusian wife to help show how male and female are wired differently, Story said. For example, a woman considers each romantic gesture as one point. Therefore, it’s better to give one rose 24 different times and get 24 points, than to give two dozen roses one time, like bigger-is-better men are inclined to do, and get only one point.
“Dr. Gray noted that eight times more blood rushes to the brain of a woman during excitement than a man. When you show that in animation, it has a lot of impact,” the actor said with a laugh.
Story said that when he auditioned for the role, he persuaded producers to let him tailor it to his own life for better empathy with an audience.
“When I came to the show, it had a fictional wife with a fictional name and I wanted to use my own wife, Megan, by name to personalize it. I also sprinkle in real experiences and details from our life, like our dog, Panda Bear,” which he describes as an adorable black-and-white pound puppy who’s a mix of Papillon and Chihuahua.
But the meat-and-potatoes core of the show is Gray’s observations about the differences between the sexes and how that impacts relationships.
“I deal with kids, going on vacations, why everything accumulates at the bottom of the stairs and simple fights that all couples get into,” Story said. “Or, how a woman making pasta can do 72 other things at the same time and still have it come out perfectly while a man puts on the pot and waits for it to boil with no guarantees.”
His favorite moment in the show is impersonating his wife Megan, an actress in her own right, opening her closet, surveying the rows and rows of clothes and declaring that she has nothing to wear.
“Men and women see clothing so much differently,” he said with a chuckle.
The show is meant to be funny and entertaining – make that “roll-on-the-floor hilarious,” Story said. “I often have to hold for a moment while an audience gets its laugh out.”
But there are serious moments for audiences to take home and mull over, he said.
“I never want it to feel like a classroom or conference or church where I’m teaching or preaching, but there are moments to ponder. I think of it as sharing life’s experiences. We never stop being funny, but I like to slow down and stop in those moments to let things settle in so people can talk about them later at home. There’s a lot of substance, but we candy-coat it well.”
Has Story himself learned anything about relationships since being in the show? Absolutely, he said.
“There are constant reminders. When my wife and I get heated about something, I stop and back up and take a look before leaping. I wouldn’t have been so quick to do that before.”