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‘American Psycho’: He Works in Murders and Executions

April 21st, 2016 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

'American Psycho' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘American Psycho’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Patrick Bateman is back. Perhaps you remember him as the narrator of Bret Easton Ellis’s provocative 1991 novel, American Psycho, and the equally notorious 2000 film, starring Christian Bale. Bateman’s a 26-year-old, homophobic, misogynistic, sexually carnivorous, materialistic, narcissistic, anti-Semitic, greedy, perfectly attired, brand name-obsessed, sadistic Wall Street investment banker who also happens to be a serial killer. He has a particular taste for stabbing, slicing, eviscerating, dismembering, and decapitating hot young women, with whose gory remains he may copulate before disposing of them in some disgusting way, including digestively.

The evil Patrick Bateman (Benjamin Walker, stardom-bound) may not be your typical Broadway hero but his tale, an icily satiric attack on the soulless superficiality and selfishness of American consumer culture during the Wall Street boom of the late 1980s (what’s past is present), has been made into a high-tech, rock musical (following a hit 2013 London production) by book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and composer/lyricist Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening). Its strikingly cool staging is by Rupert Goold (King Charles III).

'American Psycho' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘American Psycho’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Aguirre-Sacasa’s book hews faithfully to Easton’s novel while making numerous cuts, changes, and additions. Major scenes are reimagined for dance, like “Cards,” a number in which Bateman and his vapid friends compare the relative quality of their business cards; others, like the big police chase scene, are banished. The Les Misérables and homeless people material remain to remind us of the one percent’s disdain for the down and out. Bastard that he is, however, this American psycho nevertheless gains a thimbleful of sympathy; Easton’s ambiguous “did he or didn’t he actually do it” door remains open, the author’s own claims to the contrary.

Easton’s readers will be anxious to know how a Broadway musical could possibly express the novel’s nauseatingly precise scenes of violence and hyper-pornography; like the movie, the staging (albeit differently) lets the audience imagine much of it. Oceans of blood may be splashed (a scrim to protect the first rows drops before Paul Owen [Drew Moerlein] is axed open) and Patrick may get it on with a pair of bimbos but everything’s necessarily been aestheticized. During his ménage à trois (or quatre, since a stuffed animal’s involved), childlike sex cartoons, like those on bathroom walls, are seen, rendering them harmless, even amusing. Nudity is eschewed in favor of underwear; in fact, the impressively buff Walker spends lots of time in expensive skivvies.

'American Psycho' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘American Psycho’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

As appropriate in a work emphasizing depersonalization—people are always mistaking one person for another—only Bateman has any dimensionality. One problem is the story’s essential plotlessness; we watch his insatiable appetites snowball as he seeks the trendiest restaurants and clubs, food and drink, clothes and accessories, as well as the hottest women, goriest splatter flicks (those videotapes he always has to return), hippest music (that Sony Walkman), and most potent drugs. Laughs abound, but often in response to the topical name dropping of once-popular places, like Tunnel, or now dated technology, like 30-inch TV sets. Easton’s book can be like reading a Sears Roebuck catalogue of 80s’ consumerism.

American Psycho is a narrative of escalation, the chief conflict being internal as Bateman wrestles with his guilt, thus necessitating his first-person narration; monotony sometimes looms. The other characters, like Bateman’s insipid businessman buddies or his rich bitch airhead bedmates, Evelyn (Helene Yorke) and Courtney (Morgan Weed), exist mainly as reflections of his own shallow values. Only Bateman’s shy, naïve, love-hungry secretary, Jean (Jennifer Damiano), garners sympathy, but she’s interesting only as the potential victim we want most not to be harmed. The talented Alice Ripley (Next to Normal) plays several older women, one being Bateman’s mother, but none are especially noteworthy.

Lynne Page’s choreography makes excellent use of the 80s’ electro-pop club music that informs much of Sheik’s beat-heavy score, fun to hear but little of it more than momentarily memorable; it’s supplemented, though, by infusions of actual 80s’ hits from Huey Lewis and the News, Phil Collins, New Order, Tears For Fears, and others. Es Devlin’s sleek, adaptable scenery, using two revolves, combines thrillingly with the incredible lighting effects of Justin Townsend and the kaleidoscopic, wall-blanketing video designs of Finn Ross. Katrina Lindsay’s costumes make 80s sartorial excess look good again.

Like Matt Smith, of TV’s “Dr. Who,” who won raves as London’s Patrick Bateman, Broadway’s Benjamin Walker walks the walk, talks the talk, looks the look, sings the songs, and dances the dances. Resistance to him, I’m afraid, is futile. This guy kills it.

American Psycho
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
230 West 45th Street, NYC
Open run

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

Breaking: ‘American Psycho’ Heads to Broadway

July 24th, 2015 Comments off

psycho

Things will be getting devilishly creepy on Broadway in 2016. The producers of the new musical American Psycho are pleased to announce the show will make its Broadway premiere this season with previews set to start Friday, February 19, 2016 and an official opening night on Monday, March 2, 2016 at a Shubert Theatre to be announced. Rehearsals will begin on Monday, January 11, 2016. The production will star Benjamin Walker (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) as Patrick Bateman.

Living the high life in 1980s Manhattan, Patrick Bateman has it all – looks, money, style and status.  He and his entourage buy the most expensive designer clothes, eat at the most exclusive restaurants and party at the hottest clubs.  But privately, Patrick indulges in another kind of transgression. And people—including those closest to him—keep disappearing.

American Psycho has music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Duncan Sheik, making this his first new show to come to Broadway since his Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening. The show has a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, ”Glee”) and is based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis.   Rupert Goold (King Charles III, Macbeth) directs and choreography is by Lynne Page (La Cage Aux Folles, A Little Night Music).

Benjamin Walker (photo: lev radin/shutterstock.com)

Benjamin Walker (photo: lev radin/shutterstock.com)

“I’ve been a huge fan of Ben’s work on stage and screen and am really looking forward to working with him on American Psycho,” said Rupert Goold. “He is an enormous talent and I think audiences will be utterly seduced by his dangerous charisma and extraordinary stage presence.  He’ll make a killer Patrick Bateman.”

 “Ever since Ben ignited the musical theatre with his startling and superb performance in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, I had hoped to work with him again,” said Jeffrey Richards. “When Jerry Frankel and I were offered the opportunity to join David Johnson and Jesse Singer of Act 4 Entertainment in presenting American Psycho, my first thought was that the most charismatic and sexy actor for the role of Patrick Bateman would be…Benjamin Walker.  The gift of collaborative partners is that we were all in agreement…and so for that matter, as I found out, was the entire creative team.”

American Psycho had its world premiere at the Almeida Theatre in London from December 3, 2013 through February 1, 2014. That sold-out production was presented by The Almeida Theatre and Headlong in association with Act 4 Entertainment (David Johnson & Jesse Singer).

Gyllenhaal Is All Yours, Johannson Slips In & More Theater News

September 21st, 2012 Comments off

Annie Funke & Jake Gyllenhaal in "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet". Photo by Joan Marcus.

You’ve heard of friends with benefits? Well, this is a post with benefits so pucker up and get ready for this week’s theater news round-up…

  • Part theater geek garage sale and part outdoor fan convention, the annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction takes over Shubert Alley & Times Square this Sunday from 10am – 7pm. In addition to the popular autograph table (this year featuring the likes of Cheyenne Jackson, Bebe Neuwirth, Steve Kazee, Bernadette Peters, Jeremy Jordan and more), the marquee event is an auction of priceless memorabilia and events including lunch with Angela Lansbury…with all proceeds going to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Start bidding now!
  • Still jonesing for a big ticket reward? The Drama League is sponsoring an online auction of their own with some amazing items including tickets to see If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet including a VIP backstage photo with star Jake Gyllenhaal. Just keep your hands to yourself when you get that picture taken with my boyfriend.
  • David Schwimmer in "Detroit". Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

    There are lots of benefits (ouch, that transition gave me whiplash) to seeing shows beyond Broadway. Check out the glowing reviews for two big, starry Off-Broadway openings this week. First, David Schwimmer and Amy Ryan headline “the superb” new play about downward mobility Detroit at Playwrights Horizons. Then the transcript-based, wrongly accused prisoners docudrama The Exonerated, returns in a revival that “still has the power to unsettle” with its rotating cast including Stockard Channing and Brian Dennehy.

  • Broadway Cares isn’t done yet; they’ve got a benefit — that’s like butter — planned for October 12 titled Hello Gorgeous: A Salute to the Streisand Songbook. Performers scheduled to belt their tuches off include Lorna Luft (Grease 2 again!), Ann Hampton Callaway, Daisy Eagan (The Secret Garden), Nick Adams (Priscilla: Queen of the Desert) and Jim Caruso (“Cast Party” at Birdland).
  • The New York Times is reporting that Scarlett Johansson will slip out of her superhero leather and into a slip when she returns to Broadway as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof this winter. Her equally fetching, though perhaps not in a slip, co-stars will be Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson himself Benjamin Walker, Ciaran Hinds and Debra Monk.
  • Finally, start planning your Christmas Day trip to movie theaters now because the big budget adaption of Les Miserables has been moved back two weeks to December 25. Not sure if it will be goodies or coal in your stocking? After the jump, check out a juicy behind-the-scenes preview that made the rounds yesterday. Color me very, very impressed with how some of the singing, recorded live on the set, sounds…

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