Theatre Review: Patrick Bateman Comes to Broadway in AMERICAN PSYCHO

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Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

AMERICAN PSYCHO slashes its way to Broadway.

At intermission men in white hazmat suits drift on stage to first squeegee the blood off the translucent plastic curtain shielding the audience from the recent carnage and then to mop away what large sanguinary pools they can before the lights dim for the second act.

“There is a theory that obliterating Paul might have satisfied something,” the viscera-splattered man stalking along the footlights in tighty-whities soon confides to us. “But, no. I’ve continued to have intense dreams about vivisection. My nightly blood-lust continues to overflow.”

Obviously this is no ordinary evening at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.

The arrival of Patrick Bateman on Broadway—portrayed with a fierce business not-so-casual mix of sociopathy and charisma by Benjamin Walker—is a seductive, heady affair comprised of an unlikely amalgamation of brutal serial killer thriller and battle of the sexes screwball comedy; of genuine existential terror and hokey elbow-in-ribs Walkmans—ha! groaners targeting Reagan-era fashion accoutrements; of 80s pop-rock anthems (“Hip to Be Square”; “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”) and synth-heavy, menacing, caustic-yet-charming originals courtesy Grammy-nominated-troubadour-cum-Tony-nominated-musician-slash-lyricist Duncan Sheik (“Killing Time,” “Killing Spree,” “At the End of an Island”); of ecstatic aerobics class dance numbers and savage axe murders; of slapstick and splatterpunk; of graphic, animalistic sex pantomime and fetishistic, sterile refinement; of pandering WALL STREET/GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS-esque one-percenter paranoia (completely with garish Donald Trump citations and cash-spraying guns) and a populist approach to “murders and executions” meted out by a character who is as likely to wax poetic over the proletariat-embraced subversive genius of Wes Craven as he is about wonders of Romalian lettering on eggshell white business card stock.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Whether the manic pace and schizophrenic churn of this intricately staged, eye candy festooned production is explicitly designed to mirror Bateman’s descent into insanity isn’t entirely clear. Regardless of intent, however, the unpredictable careen and stark tonal shifts make for a spin on Bret Easton Ellis’ twenty-five year old source material/novel that is…well, psychotic. In the absolute best way possible—a real cackling Grand Guignol possessing an unhinged wacky streak that is both hilarious and disquieting.

Back in 2010, Ellis spoke to MOVIELINE about a draft AMERICAN PSYCHO screenplay he wrote for David Cronenberg which would have ended with a “big musical number, very elaborate” set on top of the World Trade Center to the strains of Barry Manilow’s “Daybreak.” (Take what time you need here to mourn that bit of demented amazingness never coming to fruition.) If the Broadway iteration doesn’t quite achieve that level of visionary weirdness, it sure as hell comes close at moments. 

This AMERICAN PSYCHO feels more like an accentuation than a standalone piece. Indeed, the production is only able to fully embrace its riff-y, raucous, ADHD whims—often at the expense of deeper narrative explication—because Ellis’ novel and the 2000 Christian Bale-starring Mary Harron film so successfully implanted the Bateman saga into the cultural lexicon. The chic barbarism foundation has been laid, and all that is left if for director Rupert Goold [ENRON, MACBETH with Patrick Stewart], book author Roberto Auguirre-Sacasa [SPIDERMAN TURN OFF THE DARK], choreographer Lynne Page [FUNNY GIRL, LA CAGE AUX FOLLIES], Shiek, and a ridiculously hot/on point cast to revel in it. And the the whole crew does so with panache.

AMERICAN PSYCHO has got to be one of the bloodiest romps ever to blindside the New York City theater district, and is almost certainly the only Broadway show to namecheck C.H.U.D., CHILDREN OF THE CORN, and SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE.    

Which is to say, for genre devotees seeking a delightfully rabid night out at the theater, Patrick Bateman may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch and his stage show is something to behold, bloodied curtain and all.  

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Photo: Jeremy Daniel