‘American Psycho’ offers inventive look at book

A visual feast, the musical managed to make Bret Easton Ellis’ novel about ‘80s excess pop to life, complete with name drops, style cues and no small dose of irony. It’s a shame something as creative – and exciting – as “American Psycho” didn’t last on Broadway.

Director Rupert Goold tapped the “me” decade better than anyone, casting a lean, ripped Benjamin Walker as the investment banker Patrick Bateman. Arriving on stage in a tanning bed, wearing little more than tighty-whities, he immediately dished the snark, detailing every product, label and art work he loved. The goal, of course, was to presume he had it all. Instead, he was merely existing in a miserable, competitive world where style was everything.

Jostling with his peers, he admitted there was someone who was able to make him feel a little less secure. Rather than learn from the man, he plotted to kill him. In no time at all, Walker’s Bateman plowed through the streets of New York, randomly offing people.

While Duncan Sheik’s music nicely lampooned the era (combining new songs with familiar ‘80s hits), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s book captured the times in all their red tie glory. A 30-inch Toshiba television with picture-in-picture? An Alan Flusser suit? They were definitely the stuff of which dreams were made. In “I Want It All,” Walker and company neatly summarized a decade of greed.

Es Devlin’s sets and Justin Townsend’s lighting, meanwhile, constantly shifted to meet the story’s needs. Their cinematic approach worked beautifully, particularly when the black-and-white world was splattered with crimson blood.

The supporting cast – a handful of not-so-friendly friends – were ideal, selling the attitude, no matter how misguided, that characterized the Wall Street of another era. Alice Ripley didn’t get enough to do as Walker’s mother and Jennifer Damiano could have been pressed into greater service as the only person willing to listen to him. But Helene Yorke, as his girlfriend, was about as spot on as ‘80s parodies get.

While “American Psycho” danced on the edge of comedy, it packed a punch and had a fairly neat message about consumerism and the hollow life of some who appear to have it all. Walker was great as the man who believed appearance is everything. He was deadly, too. But a slight slip of a smile convinced us this musical wanted to kill the message, not the messenger.