American Psycho-The Musical: Disco Grand Guignol

It’s the excessive 1980s. Drugs are rampant, sex is like shaking hands. A part of the population can arguably be called dissipate. Patrick Batemen (Benjamin Walker) is a compulsive, materialistic narcissist, honing himself and judging others against high, pricey standards. Product names and designer labels are so specific, one wonders whether companies are paying for “placement.” These define the Wall Street trader and his world and are, today, recognized by the audience with self-satisfaction.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Benjamin Walker and the Company

Patrick is also a serial killer, gleefully employing increasingly grisly methods. Though none of the provided production photos show blood, you may never see more spurt, splash, and cover costumes on a Broadway stage. (An expert Russian dry cleaner is accustomed to washing away this customer’s sins.) In fact, this well chiseled specimen spends much of the second act smeared with it, wearing only his white briefs. (Smearing induces gasps.) Executions are stylized, not the kind of genuinely repulsive images presented by Quentin Tarantino. It’s the amorality that makes one wince.

Surrounding the protagonist are his office mates, including misogynistic best friend,Timothy Price, who has one of those nasal, central casting, snob voices (Theo Stockman, epitomizing the timeless preppie), Luis Caruthers – gay, passing, and something of a geek (an effectively cloying Jordan Dean), and inadvertent adversary Paul Owen, whose supercilious one-upmanship borders on poetic justice (a dark, nimble Drew Moerlin.) Men are hard-bodied, competitive, well heeled, horny, and usually high.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Benjamin Walker, Alex Michael Stoll, Dave Thomas Brown, Theo Stockman and Jordan Dean

Women importantly in Patrick’s orbit are ersatz girlfriend/arm candy, Evelyn Williams (Helen Yorke – persuasively shallow and deadpan funny), piece-on-the-side, Courtney Lawrence (Morgan Weed with shades of Tinsey and Kate), and besotted, nice girl secretary, Jean, who thinks “shy men are romantic” (a credibly snow blind Jennifer Damiano.) Every woman but Jean is a Barbie doll, a Pildes-toned, big-haired, mercenary fashionista.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Anna Eilinsfeld, Ericka Hunter, Heléne Yorke, Morgan Weed, Krystina Alabado, and Holly James

As Patrick’s life feels increasingly empty, rage erupts, bodies mount. Like many sociopaths, he finds himself wanting to be caught in order to be stopped. (This is not a case of desiring fame.) Cue Detective Donald Kimball (Keith Randolph Smith, who also pungently plays a homeless man.)

American Psycho might be considered documentary, satire, an example of social bloodlust- currently including vampires, zombies, and a gun culture we haven’t experienced since cowboys ran the west, or a portrait of dehumanization. Sound like fun?

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Morgan Weed, Alex Michael Stoll, Benjamin Walker, Dave Thomas Brown, Jordan Dean and Heléne Yorke

What it has going for it is a TERRIFIC design team: Scenic Design-Es Devlin; Costume Design-Katrina Lindsay (remember those shoulders?!); Hair, Wigs and Make-Up-Campbell Young Associates; Lighting Design-Justin Townsend; Immensely creative Sound Design- Dan Moses Schreier; and palpably unnerving Video Design-Finn Ross who manage to recreate the over-stimulated, nihilistic, self-absorbed times. Sound and visuals are inspired.

WILDLY CREATIVE STAGING by Director Rupert Goold features such as a clear plastic, floor to ceiling splatter curtain between the audience and acts of mayhem, Patrick’s running up the aisle shooting (faux) hundred dollar bills from an air gun, a row of tanning Hampton denizens on vertical chaises, a midday threesome that includes an enormous, pink, stuffed animal…Derision and energy are kept UP. The wisdom to play horror and wit straight serves the piece. Scenes succeed one another with fluency and precision.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Jennifer Damiano

Lynne Page’s Choreography lands somewhere between robotic voguing and hip hop reflecting the 80s to a T.

Music, which incorporates some actual tunes from Tears for Fears, Phil Collins, and Huey Lewis and the News, is otherwise unmemorable, as are most of the lyrics. (Duncan Sheik) Throbbing, electronic pop carries us through on rhythm. Orchestrations are good.

The show’s Book, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is dark, quick, and filled with delicious detail. His portrait of Patrick, however, aided and abetted by acting and direction, is one of a sweet, needy, confused man who just happens to enjoy slashing and sawing. Though we watch successive murders, sparks of deep psychosis don’t otherwise appear even when the protagonist intermittently confesses (only to be ignored.) The character is simply not frightening. Those hoping for something like Friday the Thirteenth will be disappointed. (Patrick has rented this film 39 times.) Nor, alas, is he hot. It’s no surprise that Jean wants to take care of this version.

The attractive Benjamin Walker, who made such an impression in, ironically, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, sings and moves charismatically, but seems restrained by the dictates of this portrayal.

Note: I neither read Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial 1991 book, nor got through much of the subsequent film. Aside from reputation, the piece was new to me.

Photos by Jeremy Daniel
Opening: Benjamin Walker

American Psycho-The Musical
Book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik
Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis
Directed by Rupert Goold
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street

About Alix Cohen (1312 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.