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Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus (01/27/1997 - 02/01/1997)


 

New York Times: "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"

The supermodel Frederique threw the supertherapist John Gray for a loop on Monday night.

''I relate a lot more to the Martian side,'' she said defiantly, sharing a television studio-style set with Mr. Gray's odd assortment of other guests: Cindy and Joey Adams, the soap opera actress Linda Dano and her husband, Frank Attardi, and the rap singer Q-Tip.

Oh, that Frederique! She just wasn't going to play along with this solar system thing!

Mr. Gray, resplendent in a double-breasted suit and tie that he had allowed his wife, Bonnie, to pick out, tried to set the angular model straight. ''I see women as both Martian and Venusian,'' he said, beaming. ''The misunderstandings come when men are coming from Mars and women are coming from Venus, and they collide!''

This was about as enlightening as things got on the Broadway opening night of ''Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,'' Mr. Gray's surprisingly inept and frequently embarrassing stage version of his self-help book, which has sold 10 million copies and made the author a darling of daytime television.

While the book was a hit, the live show, combining the worst of Mr. Gray's ingratiating sermonizing and an ersatz talk show that fell absolutely flat, was about as entertaining as having blood drawn. It begged only one planetary question: What on Earth does Mr. Gray think he's up to?

Mr. Gray, a 45-year-old marriage counselor, may have thought Broadway was fertile ground for therapeutic theater: a few blocks away, much of the same territory has been covered in Rob Becker's hit show about men and women, ''Defending the Caveman.''

He has said in interviews that he had envisioned the show, which runs through Saturday at the Gershwin Theater, as a funny evening about the differences between men and women. But aside from a few unexpectedly hilarious moments of vaudeville provided on opening night by Mr. Adams, the octogenarian comic, the only thing about ''Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus'' that remotely resembles theater is that the Gershwin's ushers show you to your seat.

The rest is infomercial, and you, trapped for an unbearable 2 hours and 30 minutes, are Mr. Gray's studio prisoner.

Through his books, seminars and $120 set of instructional videos (on sale in the lobby), Mr. Gray has made a fortune reducing the complexities of relations between men and women to bromides like, ''Just as women are afraid of receiving, men are afraid of giving.'' His message is harmless enough, that spouses should pay more attention to understanding each other, supporting each other, and leaving each other alone at the appropriate times. ''There's a whole gold mine in your relationship without doing much more, just noticing more,'' Mr. Gray declares.

But place the peppy Mr. Gray on a sterile set that looks as if it had been carted over from QVC, turn his advice switch on, and you have the makings of a saccharine group therapy session: Call it ''Up With Couples.'' Savvy politician that he is, Mr. Gray comes down on the warm and fuzzy side of every family issue. During the first half of the show, an hour-and-15-minute-long lecture, he expounds on the value of: talking, listening, hugging (big on hugging), presents and romance.

His fans appear to eat it up. On opening night, the Gershwin was filled with giggling, hand-holding couples who paid up to $55 a ticket (although about a tenth of the audience made for the exits before Mr. Gray did). Some chuckled and nudged each other as the author made sport of both sexes and provided a few tips for spicing up the old love life. One tip for the guys: instead of buying two dozen roses once a year, how about sending one rose -- 24 times!

Some of his observations were so obvious and retro -- men consider the Super Bowl a national holiday, women still get stuck with the straightening up -- that they could have been uttered on a tame edition of ''The Newlywed Game.''

After intermission, Mr. Gray invited a celebrity panel onstage. The idea was for them to pose problems, and allow Mr. Gray, who has a doctorate in psychology from Columbia Pacific University in California, to give his opinions. The panelists seemed ill at ease. (After the show, Mr. Gray's publicist said that the panel would be a sometime thing.) Some in the audience were hoping the brassy Ms. Adams might enliven things with a haymaker from the lip, but it was her husband, Joey, who took things into his own hands.

To Mr. Gray's controlled consternation, Mr. Adams repeatedly grabbed a microphone and, in the midst of all the psychobabble, began with the one-liners. It was an impromptu revival of ''Catskills on Broadway.''

''In my house, I'm the boss,'' Mr. Adams said. ''The only trouble is, when I raise my hand she never calls on me.'' Encouraged by the audience's roars, Mr. Adams tried a politically incorrect joke or two. Ms. Adams came to the host's rescue, yanking her husband off the stage.

The audience, which seemed to prefer Mr. Adams to anyone else, began to boo. Mr. Gray, grinning madly, looked helpless.

Now, that's theater.


New York Times
01/19/1997

Variety: "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"

Men like to be alone sometimes, women need listening to. Men drink milk from the bottle, women love to shop. "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" and author/seminar hustler John Gray are from some black hole of gravity-sucking banality. Bringing his relentlessly chirpy self-help infomercial to a one-week stand at Broad-way's Gershwin Theater, Gray --- Dr. Gray, we're told repeatedly --- couldn't have chosen a less appropriate venue for his feel-good shtick, or a place better suited to showcasing the insipid nature of his universe. The good doctor would be well-advised to book a conference room at the local Marriott next time around.

It's not that Gray, a marriage counselor for 25 years, isn't amiable enough. In fact, he couldn't be more amiable if he were hawking ab-busters on the upper reaches of your cable dial, but four years on the New York Times best-sellers list, gazillions of book sales and a $55 top ticket price must carry some responsibility to come up with at least one original insight. At the outset of his show, Gray says, "Take some time to breathe in some new aware-ness," but beyond the Mars/Venus metaphor that's made him a rich man Gray offers nothing that hasn't been put to better use in untold numbers of stand-up comedy routines. If this is what it takes to get a Ph.D., every hack at the local Giggle Factory should get Dr. billing.

Gray's universe is one of endless bromides and generalities. Women, or Venusians, "come from a place that enor-mously values relationships." "Venusians love to discover." "Women use communication as a way of getting in touch with what's inside." Men, or Martians, "communicate to solve a problem." "Martians don't cope with stress by sharing." "You can't kill passion, you can only put it to sleep."

Aside from some half-hearted attempts at science (hormones play a role in gender differences, he says) Gray em-ploys the Daily Horoscope brand of psycho-babble: Speak in generalities so vague that they'll apply to the largest number of people. And judging by his fans in attendance (mostly young couples and groups of women nudging one another and mouthing "That's so true"), the tactic seems to work, for some anyway.

Set (tech credits are unlisted) is in keeping with the TV infomercial ambiance, and the sound system at least was sharp enough to pick up Gray's non-stop brushing and bumping of his body mike. "What the world needs today is love," Gray says at the close of his show. What "Mars" needs would fill the skies.


Variety
01/31/1997

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