Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Justin Townsend

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

Ironbound– Gritty, Powerful, Human


Darja (Marin Ireland) and Tommy (Morgan Spector) are having a heated argument at a bleak, highway bus stop in New Jersey. She’s a volatile Polish immigrant in her early forties with a decided accent (wonderfully executed) who works in a factory and cleaning houses. He’s a slightly younger, loosely wound, American postal worker with a tattoo on his leg.

Tommy is Darja’s third formal liaison after a first husband with whom she came to the states and a second who physically abused her. They’ve been together six years. Twenty-two year-old son, Alex, who has a serious drug addiction, has disappeared from home. The need to find him is eating his mother alive. Though this argument is provoked by that anxiety, it centers on Tommy’s infidelity. He’s been bedding a rich Montclair woman whose house Darja cleans.

lastMorgan Spector and Marin Ireland

“…What you gotta understand is that people fuck up…if you wanna classify me for one little…” Tommy protests, adding Darja knows he has trouble being alone. (She often works late.) The one little turns out to be at least 14 meetings over several years – and there were other women. She’s figured out his password and tapped his iPhone “There’s an app.”

Rage has blinded neither Darja’s independence nor her survival skills. She wants to know how much money Tommy will give her to stay. He thinks he rescued her. She feels she’s slaving for him and points out that his mistress sees him as a toy. They negotiate. She wants at least enough money for a car. He rationalizes “support,” then withdraws at further vitriol. “Get in the car!” Blackout.

makzJosiah Bania and Marin Ireland 

From here, we open on the bus stop 22 years before. The play unfolds episodically back and forth from past to present. Though it takes a few minutes to get one’s bearing at the first shift in time, the story then flows with clarity. We’re always on the highway between Elizabeth and Newark. Limbo.

Darja and her first husband, Maks (Josiah Bania), are at insurmountable odds about his starry-eyed dream to go to Chicago and play blues. Still suffering from the first uprooting, she wants to stay where they both have jobs and things are secure. They argue about the importance of money above all else. Darja is pregnant, but doesn’t tell her husband. Clearly in love, the couple reluctantly part. Sensitively written and gently enacted.


Shiloh Fernandez and Marin Ireland

We never meet husband number two, formerly Darja’s boss at the factory, but one scene during that marriage finds her huddling against the night cold with a whopper of a black eye afraid to return home. She’s discovered by male prostitute Vic (Shiloh Fernandez), who looks and talks like a street thug, but is, in fact, just the opposite. This parenthesis is like watching Androcles and the Lion. Darja is skittish, suspicious. Vic is sweet and solicitous. Their eventual accommodation to each other is palpably genuine.

Polish to English syntax is pitch perfect. The heroine’s relationships with Maks and Tommy couldn’t be more different, yet both are filled with specifics that make them feel authentic. Darja knows nothing but poverty and struggle. Sometimes she steals a little something from a client. Men have been unreliable, cruel. Life centers around getting through each day and doing what she can for her son. She clearly cares for Tommy, but there’s an acknowledged mutual “using” present as well. They part. Will they reunite…when circumstances change?

This is a tough, tightly written, visceral play, yet it contains both tenderness and humor.

firstMarin Ireland and Morgan Spector

Morgan Spector (Tommy), as what we used to call a “big lug,” embodies an unworldly innocence that’s no match for the clever Darja. The actor is thoroughly grounded. Blow-ups come from the gut. A passage where he thinks he sees a different future for himself is touching, not cloying.

Josiah Bania plays Maks as a loving man with a dream that simply won’t be denied. Bania both speaks excellent Polish (is he of that nationality?) and plays outstanding mouth organ. Quite a casting feat. He’s unmistakably playful, tender, and resolved.

As Vic, Shiloh Fernandez so completely epitomizes a backstreet gang member, we’re thoroughly surprised when he turns out to be otherwise. Fernandez walks a fine line between the boy’s assumed persona and his sincerity with great finesse.

Marin Ireland is simply wonderful. There isn’t a crack in the fully formed woman she inhabits. Steely, plotting, desperate, proud, stubborn, and at least, at one point, in love, we see her viscerally fighting to endure. Though the experience may be foreign, Ireland offers affecting touch points at every turn.

Direction by Daniella Topol is both pithy and nuanced.

Justin Townsend’s Scenic Design couldn’t be aptly colder or more minimal.

Kaye Voyce’s Costumes add immeasurably to character definition.

Photos by Sandra Coudert
Opening: Marin Ireland

Ironbound by Martyna Majok
Directed by Daniella Topol
Featuring: Josiah Bania, Shiloh Fernandez, Marin Ireland, Morgan Spector
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in Co-Production with Women’s Project Theater
224 Waverly Place  
Through April 10, 2016