Sunday afternoon, Feb. 14, saw the third of four hilarious weekend comedy performances by actor/comedian Amadeo Fusca at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater, based on author John Gray’s 1992 bestseller, “Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus.” Unlike traditional standup comedy, the comedian followed one cogent theme throughout the two-hour program: the ecstasies and agonies of romantic relationships in general and of marriage in particular. With its unique blend of zany acting and multimedia projections, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus—LIVE!” is a painfully entertaining self-help lesson in the daunting task of understanding one’s spouse.
John Gray authored 13 books total in the Mars/Venus franchise. The initial book sold seven million copies, translated into 40 languages. Women worldwide flocked to bookstores or community libraries to discover enriching ways of exploring their marriage, and men looked for surefire remedies to “fix” their marriage and make the “little woman” happy. However, it slowly dawned on husbands that there’s no making the wife happy—only happier—and women resigned themselves to the fact that men don’t understand the first thing about women.
Amadeo Fusca endearingly laid bare his soul, revealing the inner (dys)funtion of the Fusca household. Using a nasal voice and gender-appropriate postures and mannerisms, he vividly depicted his wife, “Sara,” with repeated lightning-speed shifts between both personages to demonstrate their typical conversations—baffling, of course, to him. They have a son, “Dominick,” and possibly another child or two, who went unnamed. No doubt names were changed to protect the innocent.
Particularly hilarious was Amadeo Fusca’s mimicry of his wife’s way of preparing pasta while simultaneously talking on the phone, shouting to him instructions (“set the table,” “call the babysitter,” etc.) and updates about friends (“Catherine says her feet are always cold too!”), even changing the baby’s diaper. Mimicry runs the risk of belittling the one imitated, but Amadeo Fusca used dramatic and comedic skills to avoid disparagement, keeping things more on the level of bewilderment.
Whether relating their first date or reenacting their fifth wedding anniversary, the actor amusingly pointed out men and women’s distinct communication styles, the different “dictionaries” they apparently use when speaking based on the diverse meanings each sex ascribes the same words. The nearly sold-out audience obviously identified with the truth of his archetypal representations, and the heartiest laughter came from the women present.
“What do women most want and need from their husbands? Attention and understanding. What do men most want and need from their wives? Trust and appreciation.” Amadeo Fusca learned from watching his loutish cousin that when a man comes through the door at the end of the day, he needs to go straight to his wife first—not the Russell Terrier, regardless of how happy the dog is to see him or how quickly he came running. Always go to the wife first!
The harried, hyperactive actor needed moments of rest now and then. He got these at strategically timed moments roughly halfway through each act, when he asked the audience to watch instructional video footage by John Gray. Far from dry, the author’s genial manner and sense of irony kept things informative and engaging. Humorous graphic animations enhanced understanding of the more scientific or technical/relational stuff. Who knew that documentary elements could be so entertaining?
Amadeo Fusca’s pacing and spot-on timing are crucial to the success of this sort of presentation. As Act I’s end obviously approached, he interrupted himself, practically screeching to a stop, and said he knows Sara feels loved when he calls her to tell her about his day. “So I’m just going to go backstage now and call her. But don’t go away. Just go across the hallway, get liquored up and come back for more.” He even gave a micro preview of Act II, when, among other things, “We’ll be talking about sex …”
John Gray’s understanding of men and women’s differing systems of scoring or ascribing “points” to each other rings excruciatingly true, giving both men and women countless opportunities to laugh at themselves and how ridiculous and illogical each other’s thought processes are. Conventional wisdom was completely upended. What works for one sex utterly malfunctions with the other.
Of course, at some point the subject had to turn to the couple’s sex life, rendering two or three scattered minutes—principally in the finale—a bit naughty, at times coarse, but always true and, in the end, somehow dignified despite all the sheepish laughter. Amadeo Fusca accurately explained the man’s approach to marital intimacies: first physical and subsequently emotional. The woman’s, though, is first emotional, then: “Oh, there’s a stain on that wall. I should change these curtains. I need to call a plumber …”
What would Venus have to say? Of course, the program is Martian-skewed, being based on a male author’s book and performed by a solo male actor. It would be a hoot to see a Venusian’s slant on the same program, or perhaps see both “aliens” duke it out together.
Very few chances ever come along to see nonfictional comedy, so if the program ever returns or comes to your community, go see it. It may surprise you the number of long-term married couples (30 years and up) alongside you—just part of the actor’s limited interaction with audience members. And likely you’ll wonder how on earth they ever lasted that long in view of all our very human ineptness.