By: Patrick Christiano
When we first see the captivating Benjamin Walker as the Wall Street banker Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Duncan Sheik and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s witty musical treatment of the shocking 1991 novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis,he is in a tanning booth wearing only sunglasses and his underwear revealing a taught smooth muscled body and looking like an adonis.This makes for a catchy opening as well as a smart comment on the cosmetics of the 1980s status obsessed culture.
Benjamin Walker in American Psycho
The story about a serial killer with a day job as a Wall Street investment banker was also turned into a dementedly sexy 2000 film starring Christian Bale. The Broadway retelling is considerably tamer, however Mr. Walker often with his hands dripping in blood makes for a gorgeous hunk as the homicidal narcissist Patrick Bateman. There is plenty of blood in director Rupert Goold’s high concept production with a heavy emphasis on style and smart musical choices.
The production at least looks terrific and the attractive cast serve up sharp-witted performances that are the focus in Es Devlin’s black and white minimalist world – the backdrop for the gruesome tale. Fans of the novel and film will laugh with delight and recognition at key elements in the staging that emphasizes humor over carnage even though there is plenty of blood in the evening that is not in the least frightening.
The opening number “Morning Routine” features a chorus of robotic Wall Street workers marching off to work on a fast moving set beautifully dressed by Katrina Lindsay with neat projections by Finn Ross. When Patrick begins to speak his words are about a list of his possessions, repeating Ellis’ theme from the novel, and Walker is perfect as Bateman with a disdainful tone that both admires and mocks the character’s air of self-importance.
There is little subtlety here in a production that showcases style over substance, however at two and half hours the evening becomes decidedly thin despite the clever performances and witty mix of Sheik’s original songs with 1980’s classics that underline the power hungry and money crazy world of the materialist era.
With choreography by Lynne Page, the staging is never less than stylish featuring a razor sharp ensemble with strong performances by Helene Yorke, Morgan Weed and Jennifer Damiano.
American Psycho is now playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, 236 West 45th Street. Tickets at telecharge.com or 212 236-6200
Photos: Jeremy Daniel