The sideburns, bell-bottoms and miniskirts are eerily familiar; so are the true-blue characters and the sappy laugh-track script. For anyone who grew up loving, or even hating, TV’s idyllic Brady family, The Real Live Brady Bunch is a hilarious expedition into a milk-and-cookies past where mother and father knew best. Playing every Tuesday at Chicago’s 120-seat Annoyance Theater, the homage is an underground hit that has fans lining up at 5:30 for the 7:00 show.
For producers and directors Jill and Faith Soloway, who grew up as Bradyphiles on Chicago’s Near South Side, the project is a labor of love. Jill, 25, who works in free-lance film production, transcribes the scripts word for word from reruns. Faith, 26, who also works as musical director for Second City Northwest, an offshoot of the famous Chicago comedy club, supplies tapes of the theme song. Together, they have scoured thrift shops to costume the cast. “We have complete respect for the show,” says Jill. “It makes fun of itself—we don’t have to.”
Part of the appeal of the production, which uses local actors, is its decidedly un-Bradylike setting. “All the regular rules are broken here,” says Jill of the scruffy Annoyance theater, where tickets cost $7 and patrons bring their own food and pop beer tops during the play. “For the price of a movie, you can get live theater.” And clearly, judging by the young sellout crowds, the plays have hit a nerve in the post-yuppie generation. “This is our nostalgia,” says Faith, “not Leave It to Beaver.” Explains Jill, “All those Brady family meetings over dilemmas that were solved in 22 minutes made us feel inadequate. Now we can sit in the theater with our feet up, smoke, drink and watch them live. It’s as if you can rid your psyche of the demons of wanting to be a Brady.”