The clans from two iconic 1970s television shows -- The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family -- cross paths with one another, along with Shakespeare and Grand Guignol in Stephen Garvey's side-splittingly funny The Bardy Bunch, playing at La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre.
At the center of the show is a Romeo and Juliet-like romance for Marcia Brady (Cali Elizabeth Moore) and Keith Partridge (Erik Keiser). Their families are feuding not because of any "ancient grudge," but simply out of professional jealousy.
Garvey heightens the stakes for these star cross'd lovers by interspersing their tale with elements of the Bard's other plays. Danny Partridge (Adam Wald), for instance, has a Hamlet-like jealousy of the relationship between his mom Shirley (Michelle Mazza) and band manager Reuben (Craig Wichman), while Chris Partridge (Olli Haaskivi), sets in motion an Othello-inspired plot against Danny. For anyone keeping track, the show, which would benefit from some judicious trimming, also incorporates elements of As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth and Titus Andronicus, among others.
Given the number of tragedies referenced, it's little wonder that the show is strewn with more blood than Sweeney Todd, and yet, each death seems all the funnier given the presence of wonderful details from the shows, including the "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!" outburst from Jan Brady (a spot-on Annie Watkins), and the songs performed by both sets of TV families -- including the Bradys' "Sunshine Day" and the Partridges' "I Think I Love You."
It's a merry mash-up staged deftly by Jay Stern and creatively choreographed by Lorna Ventura that's filled with some top-notch performances, particularly A.J. Shively's simultaneously cool and nerdy Greg, Susan J. Jacks' eerily accurate take on Florence Henderson's Carol Brady, and Elizabeth Wharton's hysterical rendering of little Tracy Partridge. And the Gen X theater-geek crowd this show aims to please will perhaps find Joan Lunoe's pitch-perfect old-school vaudevillian turn as the Brady housekeeper Alice irresistible.