As leading man to the pounding disco drama, American Psycho at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, Benjamin Walker is all abs and six pack. Sinfully envious, his Patrick Bateman embodies the ethos of the bygone late century: what he cannot have, he seeks to destroy. His body, and apartment's walls are often red splattered as if this musical were a circle from Dante's hell. Credit Es Devlin's sets. You may question the premise of this show, a British import based upon Mary Harran's 2000 film of the controversial 1991 book by Bret Easton Ellis, so misunderstood its original publisher cancelled: can you really make a musical about a serial killer? You might say, that misunderstanding can go for Bateman himself, as he compares business cards with friends and foes, diddles both fiancée and girl on the side, and generally acts out in axe wielding mayhem. Fortunately the projectile blood lands on a scrim; nothing living was hurt in the making. And if you can keep the numbing thump as satire, you may just find yourself having a good time.
With a book by Roberto Aguira-Sacasa, songs from Duncan Sheik, Lynne Page's evocative choreography, under Rupert Goold's fine direction, the show is also a nostalgia trip, evoking a time of serious consumer consumption: Barney's is Bateman's store of preference, his 30 inch Sony tv a prized possession, his hero Donald Trump who penned his favorite reading, The Art of the Deal. You get a real unsettling feeling of what goes around comes around, and what had been lost is replaced by something bigger and more crass. The guys, including Bateman bestie Timothy Price (Theo Stockman) are suits ("You are what you wear"), and the girls, like Evelyn Williams (Helene York) stick figures, literally. Only his loving secretary Jean (Jennifer Damiano), stands apart, a yardstick to the carnage. Like the movie and novel that preceded it, American Psycho sensationalizes a sensibility so bad, it fascinates, while being less kinky and more stylized. Stripped down, Bateman's world is a mirror of some inner truth you hope we've all outgrown.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.
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