Blood, Gore and Murder Some More

Culture Watch
tags: theater reviews, American Psycho



Bruce Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at bchadwick@njcu.edu.


There is nothing as American as mom, apple pie and mass murder.

You want proof? Hop on over to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York to catch the new blood-drenched play, "American Psycho: The Musical," that just opened. This play about mass killings has more blood flowing through it than a major city hospital ward.

"American Psycho: The Musical" is based on the 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis and the 2000 movie based upon it that starred Christian Bale. It is the story of obnoxious, egomaniacal, psychotic and utterly handsome Wall Street broker, Patrick Bateman, aged 27, who just can’t help himself when it comes to killing people. He has murdered dozens, men and woman, using baseball bats, knives and axes, all with a huge smile on his face. He has sized them up and chopped them up from one end of America’s financial district to another. And he loves it, just loves it.

Near the beginning of the musical at the Schoenfeld (West 45th Street), you see a newscast of then President Ronald Reagan that gives the play its historical setting. There are numerous references to the 1990s, from Tom Cruise elevator sightings (the overly short Cruise is a nice touch) and reference to the movie Cocktail to songs, night club life and then businessman Donald Trump (mentions of him draw huge waves of laughter). The early 1990s, too, was the era of the discovery of long parades of serial killers, from Ted Bundy to John Wayne Gacey (CHECK) to the Green River killer.

"American Psycho" starts off with the killer, Bateman (played just deliciously by Benjamin Walker, who oozes with charm) showing the audience each piece of his clothing, finishing with his white shirt, coved in, well, ketchup, he says. From that bloody beginning, Bateman is off to the Type A races, whacking people from skyscraper to skyscraper. He slays a business competitor just because the man’s business cards are nicer than his. He murders models that he dated and leaves them gasping for air on the floor soaked in blood. Act one ends with him slashing someone apart with an axe as gallons and gallons of blood by out at the audience (don’t worry, there’s a screen).

The plot of the story is rather simple. Bateman continues his gruesome work as a detective tries to trip him up and a girlfriend, his secretary, who loves him, appears to be on to his deep, dark, crimson secret. Will they stop him? Will he come to his senses and stop himself? Stay tuned, your axe at the ready.

"American Psycho: the Musical," that chronicles much of the ‘90s, is a well written, nicely produced, superbly directed and very satisfying play. The songs are sometimes sweet and sometimes sorrowful and the choreography by Lynne Page is highly original and extremely clever. The dancers put on a sensational show in scene after scene. Rupert Goold’s direction is emotional and fast-paced. The scenes, and songs, fly by. The blood? Here in gallons.

Director Goold keeps the show moving along at a brisk pace. His ability to turn a book and movie about a mass murderer (not exactly the Mormons, hey?) into a play, and a musical no less, is to be applauded. Whoever thought this story could wind up as a song and dance special, with snappy music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik?

The actors give the show its emotional tug. You hope against hope against hope that the materialistic Bateman will come to his senses. You hope too, that he will return all of the affection given him by his attractive secretary, Jean (wonderfully played by Jennifer Damiano). Other laudable performances are by Alice Ripley as Mrs. Bateman and others, Ana Eilinsfeld as Victoria, Theo Stockman as Tim Price, Drew Moerlein as Paul Owen, Helene Yorke as Evelyn, and Keith Randolph Smith as the detective.

Playwright Aguirre-Sacasa and director Goold do a splendid job of painting the people who work on Wall Street as the most egomaniacal and intellectually vapid group of people on earth, and hopelessly immoral, too. The book and movie debuted eight years prior to the 2008 recession, when the folks on Wall Street, led by Berne Madoff, showed their true colors and nearly destroyed America. This musical does a fine job of showing them as ruthless, merciless, money grubbing predators of the 1990s. They all seem to like blonde women, too. Hmmmmmmmmmnnnnnnnn….

The one, gnawing weakness of the play is that the playwright, Aguirre-Sacasa, does not give audiences any reason for Bateman’s need to slice and dice just about everybody he meets. Oh, OK, many murderers are just psychos and do not need a reason to kill, but there should have been more about the broker’s background than a single song that in which he claims he really had no childhood. The detective is also introduced too late in the story. No one on the NYPD is a bit suspicious about all of these missing people?

Other than that, though, the musical is a winner on Wall Street, Main Street and any other street. It is charming, enjoyable, smooth and delicious, a large glass of theatrical chardonnay wine.

And, best of all – you want blood? This show has the blood!

PRODUCTION: The show is produced by Act 4 Entertainment, Jeffrey Richards, Almeida and Headlong Companies, Will Trice, Rebecca Gold, Greenleaf Productions, others. Sets: Es Devlin, Costumes: Katrina Lindsay, Lighting: Justin Townsend, Sound: Dan Moses Schreier, Video Design: Finn Ross. Choreography: Lynn Page. The show is directed by Rupert Goold. It has an open ended run.



comments powered by Disqus