During the days of orange and olive green décor, no one nailed the squeaky clean brand of comedy that could neatly be tied up in 30 minutes or less better than “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family.” But as the program notes behind “The Bardy Bunch” are quick to mention, this Chicago edition of New York’s Off-Broadway smash doesn’t tell that laugh track-infused story, but rather imagines when the families ended their fruitful television runs and struck up a feud of Shakespearean proportions while crossing paths on the amusement park concert circuit.
No, “The Bardy Bunch” isn’t for Shakespeare purists, but for those willing to fully embrace the parody, Stephen Garvey is a comedic genius who turns clichéd storylines into epics of murder, vengeance, lust and lunacy.
As The Brady Kids’ beats of “Keep On” kick off the farce, their retro costumes, ridiculous hand motions and corny chorography spark a slew of laughs that continue for nearly ever moment of the next 100 minutes. Along the way, the soundtrack is padded with a whole lot more from everyone’s pubescent days of waking up in love, including “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat,” “Time To Change,” and of course, “Come On Get Happy.”
Though some of the cast looks more spot on than others (like the dead ringer of a Marsha in Olivia Renteria or Danny channeled through Jared Rein, as compared to say Jake Nicholson’s convincing portrayal of Bobby, despite actually looking more like Peter), everyone more than rises up to the challenge of morphing their characters into unbelievably over the top caricatures. And they’re also just as quick on their feet when it comes to referencing that groovy Partridge bus or moaning “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” as they are cranking out quotes from “Romeo And Juliet,” “Macbeth” and “Hamlet.”
No, “The Bardy Bunch” isn’t for Shakespeare purists, but for those willing to fully embrace the parody, writer Stephen Garvey is a comedic genius who turns clichéd storylines into epics of murder, vengeance, lust and lunacy. Whether it’s a dastardly conspiracy theory surrounding Shirley’s hubby/band manager Reuben, poisoned sunflower girls’ cookies or an unnoticed drowning from an all but invisible Jan, it’s far from a sunshine day for the warring TV has-beens, although it’s an absolute hoot for any onlooker able to survive the wrath of cousin Oliver!