Sunday, May 8, 2016

American Psycho ***

This musical version of Brett Easton Ellis’s controversial 1991 novel about Patrick Bateman (the mesmerizing Benjamin Walker), an investment banker by day and serial killer by night, is a triumph of style over substance. Although I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, I gather that the musical has smoothed out a lot of the rough edges and reduced the body count substantially. Satire trumps gore most of the time. The soullessness of consumerist capitalism in the Reagan era is well-captured by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s book, Duncan Sheik’s music, Lynn Page’s choreography and Rupert Goold’s direction. The gadgets, brands, clubs and restaurants may have changed but the spirit of entitlement in 1989 New York is not all that different from today’s. Bateman and his coworkers are as vacuous as their pecs are buff. The women are equally unlikable. The monochromatic scenic design by Es Devlin and sophisticated projections by Finn Ross are so striking that they sometimes threaten to upstage the actors. Among them are Helene York as Bateman’s obnoxious fiancee, Jennifer Damiano as his love-struck secretary, Drew Moerlein as his rival, Morgan Weed as his mistress and Alice Ripley, basically wasted, as his mother. The whirling sets, hyperactive videos, bright lights (by Justin Townsend) and gaudy costumes (by Katrina Lindsay) eventually produced a feeling of sensory overload and a diminishing conviction that the story was worth all the effort involved. The second act loses some of the early energy. Nevertheless, as its best moments, the show’s style overcomes its flaws and makes for edgy entertainment. The audience, considerably younger than usual for Broadway, was quite enthusiastic. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes including intermission.

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