SLACK STAGING: AMERICAN PSYCHO

photo credit: www.playbill.com
photo credit: http://www.playbill.com

The bloodbath has begun. AMERICAN PSYCHO, having received only two Tony nominations, posted its closing notice and will end its run next weekend. Having heard such interesting things about the show, I knew I needed to check it out before it closed.

My best friend saw it and sent me the following message: “Well, you’re going to either love it or hate it. It’s so incredibly specific and stylized. I liked it for that fact, Tim loved it.” 

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I saw the film several years ago, and only remembered some of it. Patrick Bateman is young, hot and pretty much the most vapid person, ever. He’s in finance, it’s the 90s and he is doing his best in the rat race….which is never quite good enough. He is competitive, and looking everywhere for the biggest thrill. This means drugs, drinking and ultimately murdering hookers.

Benjamin Walker, whom I have LOVED since BLOODY, BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, is fantastic as Bateman. He is able to play the jerk, but then also captures the insecurities and highs and lows of the character’s crazy mood swings. His droll delivery as well as his stunning physicality is mesmerizing. He should have been nominated for the Tony, but alas, them the breaks. 

Aside from Walker, the show is truly an ensemble show and the ensemble is fantastic. There are so many funny characters. and they are all amazing dancers. The show looked crisp and tight, and there wasn’t a weak link amongst the group.

To me, the weakest part of the show was probably the  music. Although it captured the style, I didn’t leave humming any of the songs. 

As I said before, he show looked crisp and tight. This was in huge part because of the amazing costumes and the brilliant choreography. (Here, as well, are two noms that the show should have received.) The sets and lights, which did receive Tony noms, were also amazing and added to the aesthetic of the piece. Bateman’s character is all about how things look, and the show’s style captures this. One progression throughout the show that I really loved is Bateman’s physicality. When the show starts, the movement is deliberate, almost militaristic in its delivery. When he’s taking drugs it becomes looser, and when he is in full “psycho” mode, he is full out doing Martha Graham style modern dance. And he (excuse the pun) kills it. Kudos to Walker for the subtlety and nuance he captures throughout the whole process.

AMERICAN PSYCHO is not a “fun” show. It is about an entitled, disconnected, spoiled, jerky guy who wants everything and doesn’t care about hurting others in the process. Although he has so much, he feels nothing. This show is a snapshot of the excesses of the 90s, but it feels really relevant today. I was surprised that I actually felt so much. Bateman’s journey is one that is familiar, particularly as the world becomes more and more “connected.” The world is driven by a desire for success and stuff, but at the end of the day, folks feel isolated and alone. And although most of us won’t become homicidal maniacs, we will definitely struggle with finding our place in the world. We’ll struggle trying to figure out what happens when you win the race only to look around to find that you were running alone the whole time.

Final thoughts: Like my friend said, you either “get” this production, or you don’t, there’s not a lot of middle ground. I loved it. I loved how it looked. I love how they made this anti-hero so interesting, and that Benjamin Walker owned the part and that stage so hard. The show told a complicated, easy-to-hate story, and made it look damn good. I’m sorry that more folks won’t be able to see this show, because it is special. Congratulations to everyone involved. What a ride.

www.newyork.com
http://www.newyork.com

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