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Palm Latitudes

The Biz

March 22, 1992|Nancy Wartik

Young New Yorkers are quietly creating a new cult classic, one that should hit the L.A. theater scene in a few weeks. It's based on a beautifully simple concept: Each week, the same youthful cast--clad in macrame vests, bell bottoms and other retro garb--enacts a different episode from the '70s hit sitcom "The Brady Bunch." The actors speak the lines as they were originally written for the series ("Well, son, that's just the way life is sometimes"; "You know, you're a pretty groovy girl") but today the deliveries drip with anachronistic irony.

Audiences at the typically packed Village Gate, where the "Real Live Brady Bunch" has run since last fall, eat it up, from the moment the familiar theme song ("Here's the story/Of a lovely lady . . .") rings out and everyone joins in.

"The first time, I was almost embarrassed to ask friends to come. I thought they'd think it was stupid," says law student Mike Williams, 24, who's seen the show two times thus far. "But when I asked, it turned out everyone wanted to go. It's a huge deja vu experience. It represents your childhood."

"I've been three times, and I wish I could have come every week," says New York fashion designer Robert Boyd, 25. "This was my all-time favorite TV program. My sister and I still do quotes from it."

The show, which will move to L.A.'s Westwood Playhouse in mid-April, was the brainchild of two twentysomething Chicago sisters, Jill and Faith Soloway. The Soloways premiered "The Real Live Brady Bunch" with a cast and crew composed of friends two years ago in a tiny Chicago theater. The show played to packed houses before moving to New York; it will continue the Big Apple run, recast, when the original show heads West.

The success of the show--fans include Madonna, Tom Hanks, Robert Reed (the redoubtable Mike Brady) and Eve Plumb (Jan), who even appeared in a bit part--took the Soloways by surprise. How to explain the hoopla? "The Brady Bunch was a source of pain for a lot of people," says Jill of the perpetually perfect family. "It was what we're all supposed to be like, and aren't, an image impossible to live up to. People are reappropriating images they were sold as children, for humor instead of pain."

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