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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
AMERICAN PSYCHO
at Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

BLOOD SPLATTER
By MATT WINDMAN

  Ph: Jeremy Daniel

If an English melodrama about a homicidal barber who slits his customers' throats and grinds them into meat pies can be made into a musical (Sweeney Todd), how about Bret Easton Ellis’ psychologically tricky 1991 slasher novel American Psycho? The piece is probably best known for the 2000 film version in which Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, the fashion- and fitness-obsessed, Donald Trump-worshipping investment banker who may or may not turn into a serial killer at night.

After a premiere run in London a few years ago, American Psycho has finally arrived on Broadway. It has songs by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), book by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa (the revised version of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and direction by Rupert Goold (King Charles III). Now playing Bateman is Benjamin Walker (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).

The creators satirize the designer chic milieu, self-absorbed personality and dance club sound of 1980s Manhattan while adding a pervading sense of eerie unease. The trippy, meticulously designed staging is full of wall-to-wall digital projections and jarring group movements. At times, the actors resemble robotic zombies.

No violence has been spared. Act one closes with Bateman aiming an axe at one of his victims. The blood subsequently splattered is cleaned up during intermission by stagehands, which resembles a sort of halftime show. Bateman later wields an assault rifle and chainsaw as the bloodied-up corpses pile up.

Walker’s well-toned Bateman brings to mind a Ken doll with a dirty mind, an out-of-control self-esteem and a butcher knife. He captures the character’s crisp, cocky demeanor and the lost, twisted psyche underneath the impeccable exterior. The fine cast also includes Heléne Yorke (Bullets Over Broadway) as Bateman’s high-strung girlfriend, Jennifer Damiano (Next to Normal) as his sweet young secretary and Tony winner Alice Ripley as his heavily medicated mother.

Notwithstanding all this, the piece has serious underlying problems. It revolves around an unsympathetic character who has no apparent emotions or desires. How can Patrick Bateman sing a traditional “I Want” song when he wants nothing worthwhile? The momentum of the storytelling is often interrupted by Bateman’s self-absorbed, quasi-existential musings. It also ends on an unapologetically depressing note, with Bateman’s psychological condition exposed and his damnation to a life of emptiness.

Duncan Sheik’s electronic, often dissonant and eerie score has a monotonous feel, which may explain why a few 80s pop hits (“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Don’t You Want Me?”) have been thrown in for good measure. Think Philip Glass meets Huey Lewis and the News. I came away feeling that American Psycho works better as a drama with background music instead of a fully blown musical. 

 


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