Peter Story understands you need a sense of humor in a marriage. Without it, a couple takes an already challenging situation and makes it far more difficult.
That is why the happily married Story gets a charge whenever he is on stage performing as star of the one-man show "Men Are From Mars – Women Are From Venus LIVE!" Not only does he talk about his own relationship, but he riffs on all of the common issues that people in love face.
The show, which Story describes as a mix of theater and stand-up comedy, returns to Detroit's City Theatre through Sunday. It sold out the last time it was in town, probably because "Mars-Venus" delves deeply into what makes two people fall in love and what it takes to stay in that precarious state.
Or, as comedian Chris Rock once said, "Only married people understand you can be miserable and happy at the same time." Story gets it.
"The greatest commitment challenge (in marriage) is living together," Story said. "When you get married, a door closes. There's no easy way out. You've got to stick it out and make it work. That's what you grow from the most. I think that's why weddings are public events — when we stand up and say it's for better or for worse, there are people there to make you accountable."
The show is based on John Gray's book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," exploring the differences between the sexes. Since being published in 1992, it has sold in excess of 50 million copies, been translated into 40 languages and is one of the most recognizable titles in the world.
Story himself is a seasoned performer. He has appeared in prime-time shows on all three major networks — some of his favorite credits include "CSI," "Without a Trace," "Ugly Betty" and recurring roles on Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show" and Rob Lowe's "The Lyon's Den." He stars opposite Steve Guttenberg in the horror film, "Cornered," and can be seen opposite Elizabeth Perkins ("Weeds") in the short "Le Chat Est Mort."
He has based a certain part of his career on his acute analysis of marriage. He earned a spot in the prestigious "The Moth Story Hour" for his hilarious tale of entering a "free wedding" contest. In fact, his wife Megan condones Story's decision to discuss their relationship on stage, night after night.
Her other contribution to his Detroit performances is that she is a native Michiganian, so they travel here frequently. Most local shows turn into family reunions, Story noted.
"If she was a business person or in the 9-to-5 world, being mentioned in the show might bother her. But she's a performer as well, and she does comedy work. As long as I'm not hurting our family name or throwing her under the bus, she understands that it's part of the storytelling," Story said. "Megan, bless her heart, has seen the show so many times she's got it down pat. She even uses parts of the show against me in arguments."
The show's playwright, Eric Coble, also allows Story to change the script as he sees fit. For example, Story always tries to include some chatter about the city he's in at that particular moment at the front of the show (he will have completed more than 200 performances of "Mars-Venus" in February).
"People don't have to be married to enjoy this show; it's about relationships. It's not a panel. It's not a symposium. I'm not getting up there and reading the book. It's got singing, dancing, storytelling," Story said. "But the most important thing is that it's got a spark. If your relationship is getting stale, this will start a conversation."
Even the book's author, John Gray, has seen the show. And he loved it, Story said, which was a great relief.
"He came to see the show when it was near his home in California. I was super nervous. After all, he's the guru of love and relationships," Story said. "He came backstage afterward, and he was over the moon. He said he couldn't have been more proud to have his book inspire such a show. We couldn't have asked for a better response."
Karen Dybis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
'Men Are From Mars – Women Are From Venus LIVE!'
Starring Peter Story
2301 Woodward Ave., Detroit