at Theatre West
This wildly inconsistent, sporadically entertaining satire of the inordinately popular 1970s show The Brady Bunch is well-suited to the season, as the book (Lloyd J. Schwartz and Hope Juber) makes no intellectual demands on the heat-debilitated brain whatsoever: The Brady kids, due to a wacky misunderstanding, need to make money quickly, and, this being theatre, their quests lead them places the television show never would have. There's a lot more generically upbeat music (Hope and Laurence Juber) than anything else, and this aspect has an overprocessed quality that makes it easily acceptable and just as easily forgotten. To a point. The getting-ready-for-love song that Carol (Barbara Mallory, uncomfortably mature for the role) and Mike Brady (John Cygan, just uncomfortable) sing is memorably shaky in its initial outing and gets worse in each—of three, mind you—reprise. More than a few in the cast are bested by the prerecorded tracks to which they sing.
The ambitious set (Daniel Keough and Joseph M. Altadonna)—an economical construct of folding, spinning panels—eschews the distinctively '70s palette of the original and goes for a bright, cartoonlike look that is at odds with the generally period-perfect costumes (Diana Marion). The flaccid direction (Schwartz) lacks the spirit and pace the piece requires, as does the generally uninspired choreography (Paul Denniston). Neither of them displays any particular flair for the callback joke, which matters in this case. It's always a detriment in an ensemble production when some of the cast grasp the concept utterly and others are just treading water.
Kelly Stables is a powerful combination of poppet and Joan Sutherland in the role of little Cindy, leaving most of the cast picking princess-pink dust off its collective tongue. The dynamic she shares with Adam Conger as Bobby Brady is one of the more consistently successful aspects of the show. As the irritatingly perfect Marcia, Erin Holt looks great and has deftly mastered the nuances of communicating through the medium of long blond hair. Laura Marion (Jan), Jeremy Fassler (Peter in the show reviewed) and Elliot Kevin Schwartz (Greg) are distinctively appealing. The domestic, Alice, is an unstoppable fireplug of advice as played by Kathy Garrick. I only wish one of her suggestions had been, "Watch, everyone: Here's how you sell a song."
Presented by Theatre West at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Jun. 6-Jul. 20. (323) 851-7977. www.theatrewest.org.
Reviewed by Wenzel Jones