BWW Review: AMERICAN PSYCHO - THE MUSICAL at The Victoria Theatre is a slick, campy well executed musical adaptation of the shocking Bret Easton Ellis novel.
American Psycho - The Musical
Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik
Directed by Jason Hoover
Ray of Light Theatre
Hmm, a wealthy, self-absorbed, narcissistic anti-hero with no morals, compassion or responsibility for his actions. Culled from the immoral, coke sniffing, emotionally-void era of the late 1980's, American Psycho's serial killing Patrick Bateman is not as ridiculous a main character as one would believe given today's lack of moral leadership. That said, Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, which was a larger-than-life cautionary tale, instead becomes a great looking (both staging and actors) tongue-in-cheek camp-fest of 80's references, senseless violence and emotionless interpersonal interactions. We've become so numb to the Bateman's of the world that one is left not feeling very much either way about these characters and who they represent. Still, Ray of Light's regional production of this Broadway flop looks great with excellent direction by Jason Hoover and an energetic ensemble cast led by Kip Glass as Patrick Bateman.
Its Manhattan during the me me me Reagan era where Patrick and his uber macho male co-workers are all-consumed with climbing the corporate ladder ("Everybody Wants To Rule The world"), dinner reservations at the toniest restaurants, wearing the finest designer attire ("You Are What You Wear"). The females are vapid sex objects who pontificate on tasting Pellegrino, finding rich husbands and luxurious vacations. Makes it so much easier to imagine these caricatures murdered when Patrick goes on his manic carnage ("Killing Spree").
Its not really clear why Patrick has this psychotic break. He sings of not being a common man ("Not A Common Man"), his alienation and emotional detachment clearly stated. The concept of the superior Uber-man goes back to Nietzsche, who's ubermensch "does not follow morality of common people since that favors mediocrity but instead rises above the notion of good and evil and above the "herd". American Psycho's Bateman reminds me of Dostoevsky's amoral Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, who struggles with anguish and guilt after murdering a lowly pawnbroker. Bateman knows he's screwy, telling us there's "not one clear, identifiable emotion within me".
Kip Glass is genuinely creepy as Bateman, looking every inch the slick, well-groomed and extremely buff monster. People are just objects to him, and Glass brings out that disjointed, dehumanized affect with quirky facial and body movements. His absence of morals is alarming, his preening disturbing. Hard to pity this man even if he may be a victim of his times. Duncan Sheiks score is full of 80's pop-synth with snippets of popular tune by Huey Lewis and the News, Tears for Fears and the Human League. Laughter comes from the extensive use of 80's references from Broadway shows to then-modern products like Sony Walkman's and Manolo Blahnick shoes. The characters are so despicably vapid, misogynistic and pretentious that I didn't care when they were butchered.
Director Hoover moves the huge cast with finesse, Leslie Waggoner has recreated the vogue-ing robotic dance movements of the 80's dance clubs, and Katie Dowse hits the nail on the head with her period costumes. Angrette McCloskey's sharp, angular set is highlighted with Erik Scanlon's smart projections and Weili Shi's striking lighting. Ben Prince gets the most out of Sheik's weak score and there's some fine voices in the ensemble. There are some delightful supporting performances: Danielle Altizio as Evelyn, Joshua Beld as the in-the-closet Luis, Kyle Ewalt as Paul Owen, Zoey Lytle as the only sympathetic character Jean, Desiree Juanes's Victoria, Madeline Lambie's Christine and Kirstin Louie's Courtney.
While American Psycho- The Musical is campy, slick fun at the expense of a huge body count, we should take note that the Patrick Batemans of the world are a sad, very real result of our disassociated society. Enjoy the dark comedy of the well-conceived and executed production, but beware!
American Psycho continues through June 8th, 2019 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. Tickets and information available at http://rayoflighttheatre.com or https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ray-of-light-theatre-presents-american-psycho-18499671518