Two households, both alike in groovy tees, from ancient kitsch break to new grisly teens in this stupidly clever mashup of 1970s family sitcoms The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family with some of Shakespeare’s bloodiest plots. Set in the days following ABC’s cancellation of both shows in 1974, Stephen Garvey’s script establishes the two families as rival clans, based on the Bradys’ horning in on the Partridges’ musical territory at the Arden Amusement Park. But an attraction between star-cross’d lovers Marcia Brady (Olivia Renteria) and Keith Partridge (Skyler Adams) sets in motion a series of increasingly unfortunate events that cribs from everything from Hamlet to Much Ado About Nothing.
The Bardy Bunch simply shouldn’t work on as many levels as it does: It’s sharp but affectionate, often meta parody for fans of both TV shows, interspersed with witty rethinkings of the Bradys’ and Partridges’ signature tunes, as well as apt, knowing satire for Shakespeare nerds. As the murders and musical numbers begin to pile up, there are groan-and-bear-it puns drawing from the language of both worlds, as well as spot-on character bits—witness poor, posthumous Jan Brady (Annie Watkins, reprising her role from the show’s 2014 Off Broadway run) as the one ghost no one can see.
A big part of the success of this new production is director Jay Stern’s inspired Chicago casting. With established talent like Cory Goodrich as Carol Brady, Brianna Borger as Shirley Partridge and Erin McGrath as Laurie Partridge leaning into both the original TV actors’ quirks and the Shakespearean violence (and the stage blood runs gleefully thick as things progress), this show is as infectious as those ’70s melodies. Lookin’ for a good time? You’ve got it.
Mercury Theater. By Stephen Garvey. Directed by Jay Stern. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 45mins; no intermission.