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American Psycho: Theater review by Adam Feldman
As Wall Street banker Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, the charismatic Benjamin Walker first appears in a tanning booth, stripped to his underpants, his muscles smooth and gleaming. He looks like a doll in a box, complete with accessories: status-symbol 1980s cosmetics and clothing that he meticulously name-drops. Hollowed out by his daily drill of conspicuous consumption, Patrick turns into a serial killer, and the first act ends in a jet of blood as he gives a rival the axe—to the strains of Huey Lewis and the News’s “Hip to Be Square.” (The show is part jukebox musical, or rather Walkman musical; Duncan Sheik’s pulsingly blasé synth-and-drum score is augmented by five hit pop songs from the period.)
Rupert Goold’s production looks terrific; the attractive cast is the meat in Es Devlin’s set, the world’s hippest minimalist abattoir. Fans of Bret Easton Ellis’s gruesome 1991 novel and especially of Mary Harron’s less explicit 2000 film version will scream with delighted recognition, and there are sharp performances: Heléne Yorke as Patrick’s girlfriend, Jennifer Damiano as his secretary, Theo Stockman as a nasty friend. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s adaptation emphasizes (perforce) humor over gore and tries to hint at a sensitive soul behind Patrick’s sleek facade. But numbness sets in. American Psycho is about an idea of a person doing an idea of very bad things, as seen from a safely stylish and ironic remove. Neither the violence nor the satire can cut very deep when its targets are so thin. For all its splatter, the show feels bloodless.—Adam Feldman
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (Broadway). Book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik. Directed by Rupert Goold. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam