The Broadway version of the best-seller features blood, guts, satirical song-and-dance, and all the maximalist style of an era of excess.”>
For much of his time on stage, with or without ax, the strapping actor Benjamin Walkerwho plays the deranged Wall Street investment banker Patrick Bateman in the Broadway musical version of American Psychois clad only in white underwear.
Later, that underwear is splattered with blood, just as Walker's chest become smeared with it as the body count on stage rises.
But just as with Bret Easton Elliss original 1991 novel and Mary Harrons movie, made in 2000, the tone of the musicalwith music, lyrics and orchestrations by Duncan Sheik, and book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasaveers between comedic and horrific, between satire and splatter-horror, and between a savage social diary of the times, and a vivid exploration of psychological disintegration.
All of this is on a much bigger, Broadway scale than the plays first gestation at Londons non-West End Almeida Theatre in 2013. Its director, Rupert Goold, hopes the stage version offers even more room for ambiguity in the pieces characters plot, message, and morality.
On Broadway, American Psycho lands on stage in 2016, with the nostalgia industry that so bloomed at the time of its publicationfor the 1960s, as in shows like The Wonder Yearsnow fully caught up with the 1980s and 1990s itself.
Today, pop culture nostalgia is such fast food, our looking back so immediate, even the aughts have been preserved in affectionate aspic.
Yet American Psychohowever you take it, horror story or 80s satire or bothdoesnt do for the 1980s what a sitcom does. It doesnt make it safe, it makes it toxic. It invites us to laugh at its excesses, its shoulder pads, its maximalism, but it alsothrough the walking, distorted prism that is Batemanalso invites us to look at its shallowness, its socially and culturally debasing backwash.
The dance sequences may look and sound brashly Broadway, but listen to the lyrics about venality and bloodlust: its brilliantly perverse toe tapping. Just as in the novel, Bateman celebrates, and recoils from balefully, the material excess around him.
The theater piece opens, as the movie did, with Bateman, in his tighty whites, showing us his morning exercise and make-up routinewhich, as he removes the facial mask he uses, also introduces us to the idea that his identity may not be as fixed as his impressive body makes it seem. Just as in the novel and movie, we are not fully sure what has been real and who has been real at the final curtain.
The book talks about his body, the relationship between the social and the corporeal, says Goold. When I looked at Ben I thought, He really looks like Superman. He has this Clark Kent quality when hes at work. I got very interested in the anti-hero version of Superman, the alter ego: an American destroyer by night, rather than savior.
Indeed, we see Bateman at work, wanting to assert his dominance, but this assertion is, we quickly realize, rooted in the insecurity that he is not as powerful as Paul Owen, whom we see him in thrall to as much as the men around Bateman are around him.
On stage, even more than in the book, Batemanwhoever and whatever he isisnt just a cipher for all that was damning about the 1980s, but also seems to be a bloody cipher of conflicted masculinity too. Bateman violently rejects a gay characters advances: there is some suggestion he too, despite the compulsive heterosexuality played out on stage, is at best sexually confused and ambivalent.
His relationship with girlfriend Evelyn is rooted firmly in material gain, rather than romance. The challenge he faces with the only truly good character on stage, his secretary (played by Jennifer Damiano) who is secretly in love with him, is whether he will spare her life, rather than bed her.