by Rikki Lee Travolta
Bret Easton Ellis was one of the authors who defined transgressive and postmodern literature in the 1980s and beyond. Along with Jay McInerney, and Tama Janowitz, Ellis was regarded as a member of the unofficial Literary Brat Pack – a group of young authors in the 1980s and early 1990s who focused on coming-of-age stories, often with heavy dedication to sex and drugs and an overall affectless nature. The authors themselves were also known for their penchant for public debauchery – although not necessarily together.
Ellis’ American Psycho was published in 1991, but set in the 1980s. It details the happenings and inner struggles of Patrick Bateman – a young, wealthy, narcissistic Manhattan investment banker who lives a double life as a serial killer.
Considered Ellis’ most successful novel, the second follow-up to Less Than Zero, American Psycho was adapted to film in 2000. The film was at one point set to star Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role under the direction of Oliver Stone. However, as often happens in Hollywood, those players went their separate ways, leaving the door open for director Mary Harron to make the film with Christian Bale as Bateman.
The film was well-received and helped to propel Bale to bankable leading man status. It has since gone on to achieve a cult following. A stage musical adaptation of the dark and eerie tale premiered in London in 2013, which was followed by a short Broadway run in 2016.
The Chicago premiere of American Psycho: The Musical is now on full display at the Chopin Studio Theatre through the impeccable talents of Kokandy Productions. The talent that struts, pouts, and explodes in the embrace of sin after sin invokes a sense of awe from every member of the audience. Based on the overall quality achieved by producing artistic director Derek Van Barham, American Psycho: The Musical should play to nothing short of standing-room-only audiences for the duration of its stay in Chicago. It’s that good.
Van Barham has staged the show with the utmost creativity. From the moment you walk into the theatre, you are transported to the foreign world of Patrick Bateman’s deranged mind. Sheets of plastic hang randomly around the space, prepared to protect the innocent from blood and carnage. Hit music from the 1980s fills the room with sound as scenes and images from period television and films are broadcast on the plastic sheet remnants.
The stage itself is constructed to resemble a fashion show catwalk. This ingenious staging also incorporates the incredible talents of choreographer extraordinaire Breon Arzell who keeps the cast’s movements interesting while also being applicable to the story.
Music direction by Heidi Joosten is also excellent. The score features original material from Duncan Sheik who previously won the Tony Award for Best Original Score for Spring Awakening. The musical also has a jukebox element to it, including popular period songs such as Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League, and “True Faith” by New Order. The arrangement for “In the Air Tonight” is particularly haunting and beautiful.
The musical features a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The writer is also known for Riverdale and The Picture of Dorian Gray. He does a stellar job of capturing the voice established by Ellis in the novel.
The biggest reason to fall in love with Kokandy’s American Psycho is the performance of Kyle Patrick as Patrick Bateman. He has a hard, chiseled physique on par with Superman star Henry Cavill, the voice of an angel descended from heaven, and precision acting that would inspire a standing ovation from the most hypercritical Broadway audiences. Kyle Patrick puts on the performance of a lifetime. Every single movement, including slight character ticks, tells a story.
During my career I have had a few signature roles – parts I did repeatedly around the country. In my case, those shows included Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, West Side Story, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Kyle Patrick could easily make Patrick Bateman a signature role if he wanted. His performance is so perfect, that it could be plucked out and seamlessly transplanted into any production of American Psycho: The Musical around the nation.
The handsome star is not alone in terms of excellence. The entire cast is about as close to perfection as you can get.
Will Lidke is a standout as Patrick’s equally narcissistic best friend Tim Price – who is always up from a night of partying as long as it involves designer suits and designer drugs. Caleigh Pan-Kita equally dazzles as Patrick’s Barbie Gone Bad girlfriend Evelyn Williams.
Also providing head-turning performances are Sonia Goldberg as Patrick’s soft-spoken secretary who is filled with hidden emotions, Amber Dow as the mother who would drive any child to a psychological breakdown, and Quinn Kelch as Luis – Patrick’s less-than-cool friend from the office.
Emily Holland, Quinn Simmons, and Danielle Smith all shine whenever they are given the chance. In terms of taking full advantage of being given an opportunity, swing Beck Hokanson faultlessly stepped into the role of Patrick’s rival Paul Owen on the night of review (a principal role normally played by John Drea).
From top to bottom, every member of the cast shines in Van Barham’s stunning production. The players include Jonathan Allsop, Ryan Armstrong, Hailey Brisard, Ben Harmon, Bryson Howard, Maddie Mossner, Kevin Parra, Anna Seibert, Madison Sheward, and Evan B. Smith. David Moreland serves as Patrick Bateman understudy.
G “Max” Maxin IV does an outstanding job with scenic design, lighting design, and projection design. Van Barham’s open-space fashion show-style staging doesn’t call for a lot of set pieces. But Maxin does an incredible job in making the space a reflection of Patrick’s mind – most notably with the presence of hundreds of business cards integrated into the stage itself. The importance of business cards and the quality of their ink and paper stock are a running theme for Patrick.
Fight choreographer Kate Lass does wonders. The main killing knife that Patrick uses is impressive and looks to be 100% real, and thus dangerous. However, it is clear that the cast has been well-trained in the importance of safety. And despite the fights being safe for the actors, the fight choreography looks entirely real – even from the first row.
Other key staff positions include David Moreland (technical director), Nicholas Reinhart (production manager), Michael J. Patrick (sound designer), Kendyl Meyer (stage manager), Keith Ryan (wig design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Kirsten Baity (intimacy coordinator), Toby Osibodu (Ableton designer, associate music director), Kyle Brode (additional video content), Lynsy Folckomer (sound engineer, assistant sound design), Syd Genco (makeup designer), Nathan Krusemark (assistant stage manager), and Brennan Urbi (casting associate).
Kokandy Productions’ American Psycho: The Musical is going to be the talk of Chicago. Get your tickets to enjoy beautiful artistic chaos the likes of which Chicago has never experienced before. It’s going to be one of the biggest hits of the season.
American Psycho: The Musical plays Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through November 26. There is also a special Wednesday, November 22 performance as that there is no performance on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 23).
To purchase tickets and get further information visit www.KokandyProductions.com. The Chopin Studio Theatre is located at 1543 W. Division Street in Chicago. The theater is accessible by public transportation. There is ample ParkChicago on-street parking in the area.
Title photo credit: Collin Quinn Rice
Production photos credit: Evan Hanover
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
A variation of this review appears at Northwest Herald/Shaw Media.
For more reviews visit: Theatre in Chicago – your source for What’s on Stage in the Chicago Area
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