Playing Around

Advocating 'Less Nagging, More Shagging'

One-man stage show takes relationship comedy forward while adapting "Men Are from Mars..."


Men and women are different. It’s the plain-as-day punch line of much relationship-driven comedy.

Lethargic men want to watch sports; fickle women desire undivided attention. Selfish men sweep problems under the rug; badgering women invent problems for the sake of discussing them.

The reason for all the tension? Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Luckily, there’s manual for this sort of thing, and Peter Story, our “friendly resident Martian,” is here to bridge extraterrestrial barriers between the sexes. He’s traveled from afar to the Times Union Performing Arts Center, Jan. 14-17, to take this tired comedic formula a step further and bring something fresh to the relationship monologue — solutions.

Story takes the audience along on a recent date, a botched evening at the opera house ending in disdain from his wife because of his preoccupation with sports.

It’s a familiar scenario for many, and knowing glances between couples and nods of affirmation from Martians and Venusians alike show that Story’s quips and jabs are landing close to home.

While Story was mid-joke on Tuesday, Jan. 14, a woman who at first appeared to be part of the show approached the stage and set flowers at his feet. The resulting nonsensical exchange between her and the comedian revealed she was a heckler with too much liquid confidence.

Story appeared ready for anything on opening night for the four-show run, Jan. 14-17 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Jacksonville.

One of the biggest laughs of the evening came from a 30-year veteran of marriage in the audience who, when asked what date he and his wife’s anniversary falls on, answered “Memorial Day.”

Further into the show, Story receives a phone call from his wife, which he takes. He plays it off as a surprise, but the resulting conversation segues seamlessly into his next bit about communication in a relationship.

The comedic territory is familiar, but Story keeps the laughs coming. It’s only when our friendly resident Martian beams in a message on the theater screen from Dr. John Gray, author of the 1992 bestseller “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” that the show seems to lose momentum.

Gray candidly lounges in his study as he gives the audience a brief neurology lesson with accompanying animation. The information he’s providing works within the context of the show, but Story’s borderline evangelistic delivery of it feels a little too “this man changed my life, here, let him change yours too.”

Still, the video does land some laughs, and Story’s animated charisma ropes the audience back into focus.

Inspired with this new-found information from Gray, Story resolves to make a call to his wife while the audience takes a brief intermission and our heckler navigates back to the bar. Fifteen minutes later, we’re back into it.

The second part of Story’s performance begins to introduce solutions, though he informs the audience that his wife didn't pick up his phone call during intermission, leaving that whole tangent unresolved and one to wonder whether it was impromptu after all.

The Spark Notes version: Men, listen more and don’t forget romance shouldn't end after the honeymoon. Women, men aren't only interested in sex, but it certainly holds their interest.

Story’s “less nagging, more shagging” philosophy may or may not rescue a relationship on the rocks, but “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” is a show that delivers laughs.

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