AMERICAN PSYCHO, the musical, and the Strip House

American Psycho, the musical, captures what it was like to live in New York City at the end of the last century, when the rich got richer. The hero so to speak, Patrick Bateman, is introduced fresh from the tanning bed with a sensational number about his grooming technique (“Never put cologne on your face”). While he’s shallow and he knows it, it is the shallowness of others that drives him into a rage when he overhears vapid conversation in the Hamptons, and jealousy consumes him that his rival’s business card has a crisper font than his own. 

Patrick’s anger turns into violent frenzy—at least in his imagination. The musical departs from Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel in that Patrick’s private seething results in vivid, murderous fantasies. After the bloodbath at the end of Act One, four on-stage cleaners meticulously mop up during the entire intermission. 

The smart choreography by Lynne Page and Rebecca Howell sometimes evokes the paintings of Robert Longo and is athletic, surprising, and sexy. Benjamin Walker is smashing in the lead. His nemesis, played by affable Drew Moerlein, is another perfect casting, and they are well backed by Keith Randolph Smith, Theo Stockman, Dave Thomas Brown, and Jordan Dean. American Psycho, the musical, is more gender fluid than either the novel or the film starring Christian Bale (2000, directed by Mary Harron).

A new classic, “You Are What You Wear,” rhymes haute couture designers of the 80s. Overall, the female characters are inspired—bold and sarcastic, not victims at all. (Patrick’s secretary is the one weakly written part.) Heléne Yorke as Evelyn, Patrick’s socialite girlfriend, is fresh and has great pipes, and they are believable as a couple. Solid work by Alice Ripley in a number of parts, including Patrick’s overly sedated mom. Morgan Weed is cool and Hepburn-esque (Katharine, not Audrey) as Courtney, Evelyn’s BF and Patrick’s GF.

American Psycho has an extraordinary Christmas scene in which rotating platforms present the players in surreal tableaux. There’s a birthday party (Patrick pulls a large knife from his jacket to cut the cake), a wedding, and intricate ensemble work in every setting including Patrick’s VHS cassette-lined living room and sterile office. And it’s all to a disco pulse that includes Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Huey Lewis and the News “Hip to Be Square.” If boy-meets-girl musicals put you to sleep—Kinky Boots, we mean you—have a truly kinky date with Patrick Bateman and his pals.

Arden (age ten) skipped the R-rated American Psycho but joined us beforehand at the Strip House for New York strip steak, goose fat fries, and vegetable sides. Steaks are grilled in salt-and-pepper char, the line-caught tuna served “black and blue” or charred on the outside, cool inside. We tried each of their delicious sauces with our steaks and charred broccoli. In her quest to compare every famous burger in town, Arden pronounced theirs juicy. (She found the goose fat fries heavy. We found them scrumptious.)

Theatre Row Restaurant Review wasn’t expecting to meet the Charlotte Brontë Society at the Strip House, but we also learned the all red, with red leather banquettes Strip House doesn’t typically have a matinee lunch crowd either, though it’s right on the edge of Times Square. The clientele is pretty much alpha males—like Patrick Bateman—closing deals over $50 chops. The lunch menu is more in our budget, listing steak au poivre, le burger, and tempting main course salads, including a seafood Cobb.

The original restaurant downtown was the memorable Asti’s, which featured performances by opera singers. (Which is what you find now at Caffe Taci, at Papillon restaurant on Saturday nights.) The son of Asti’s owner installed autographed photos of opera sopranos in the midtown location, where they hang along with autographed vintage photos of burlesque dancers. Don’t leave without trying the reinterpreted Baked Alaska with chocolate-cherry ice cream and pistachio sauce or the giant twenty-four-layer chocolate cake, so dense it is served with a steak knife.