All right. You've been warned.
If you hated "The Brady Bunch," television's cheeriest extended family, you're not going to have much fun at "The Real Live Brady Bunch," a theatrical resurrection of Mike Brady, Carol Brady, his three sons, her three daughters and the perpetually wisecracking maid Alice.The TV show was dumb more than 20 years ago when it first surfaced on ABC. It's still dumb today, only now it's wrapped in the golden haze of nostalgia that makes bellbottoms, cereal bowl haircuts and white vinyl, knee-high boots look positively quaint.
"The Brady Bunch" wasn't "Gilligan's Island" or even "My Mother, the Car," but it still was about as far away from real life as you could get. Who were these people who could solve life's problems in less than 30 minutes each week? Androids from the Ann Landers school of positive thinking?
Every episode was a little morality tale with a lesson to be learned. And it usually was. Maybe that's why the television show was so popular, and still is, unspooling forever on one of Ted Turner's cable television stations.
What "The Real Live Brady Bunch" has done is to take original scripts from the TV program and put them on stage. The theatrical presentation, now on view at off-Broadway's Village Gate, is done deadpan by a group of actors from the Annoyance Theatre Company in Chicago where the show has had great success.
There must be a lot of true believers. For them, "The Real Live Brady Bunch" is beyond criticism. These aging teenyboppers - mostly in their 20s and early 30s - whoop and holler as if each dippy joke were delivered by Henny Youngman himself.
Adapters, directors and sisters Faith and Jill Soloway wisely don't camp up the proceedings until the very end of the evening when the actors engage in a drugged-out, orgiastic putdown of the original.
The troupe does a different episode each week at the Village Gate. Opening week, the episode was entitled "Dough Re Mi," in which the Brady kids try to become a singing sextet. But they boot the middle son - Peter, I think - out of the group because his voice is changing. Things turn out OK, of course, and they even figure out a way to work the kid's croak into the act. That's show biz.
The actors are enthusiastic. Some are even funny. Mari Weis does a pretty fair imitation of Alice the maid, originally played by the legendary Ann B. Davis, one of television's supreme second bananas. And Jane Lynch gets laughs for her portrait of Carol Brady, the chirpy, ever-smiling mom, first done by cooking oil pitch lady Florence Henderson.
Because the episodes are less than a half hour long, the evening is padded out with a dreary game show spoof called "The Real Live Game Show." Audience members willingly submit to public humiliation and even seem to enjoy the attention.
"The Real Live Brady Bunch" is a real live fad show, best seen with a large crowd of die-hard fans roaring their approval. They at least are trading on their fond memories of the original program. The rest of us can only sit back and wonder why.