When: Out of the Box Theatre Company will perform the musical Nov. 15-24. Curtain rises at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Cost: $35 for general admission, $20 for students and seniors.
Where: Center Stage Theater, upstairs at Paseo Nuevo.
Information: 805-963-0408, www.centerstagetheater.org; www.outoftheboxtheatre.org.
Mature content: The play contains adult material and language.
Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street banker who turns into something evil when night falls.
A serial killer.
Or so it seems.
Are the sociopath’s murders really happening, or are they all just images in his dark and twisted mind?
It’ll be up to the audience to answer that question when the musical version of “American Psycho” makes its Southern California premiere this month in Santa Barbara.
Out of the Box Theatre Company will perform “American Psycho” Nov. 15-24 at Center Stage Theater, upstairs in Paseo Nuevo. Curtain for the show, which contains adult material and language, will rise at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
The production marks the start of the 10th season for the theater company, which has embraced non-traditional shows since its first play, a musical called “Reefer Madness.”
Samantha Eve, the theater troupe’s founder and artistic director, told the News-Press she looks for alternative theater shows with unique, relevant stories.
“We’ve done ‘Assassins,’ a Stephen Sondheim musical about people who try to assassinate presidents,” said Ms. Eve, the “American Psycho” director, as she sat this week outside the Santa Barbara facility where her cast was rehearsing. “We have done ‘Next to Normal,’ which is the story of a dysfunctional family and a mother dealing with bipolar disorder and a lost child.
“We’ve done ‘Lizzie,’ a punk rock musical about Lizzie Borden, with just four women in the cast — four extraordinary women who belted their faces off,” Ms. Eve said.
She explained she knew she wanted her troupe to perform “American Psycho” after she saw the musical during its short Broadway run in 2016.
“I felt the music is great, and the story is really interesting. It still feels very relevant,” Ms. Eve said.
The play is inspired by Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel “American Psycho”, which was adapted into a 2000 movie starring Christian Bale as Patrick.
Ms. Eve said the question is whether Patrick is actually killing people or simply imagining he’s a murderer.
Inside the rehearsal room, Tyler Matthew Burk, who plays Patrick in the Out of the Box Theatre Company production, told the News-Press that he loves that uncertainty. “The audience is questioning what’s true and what isn’t true.”
Mr. Burk said he dislikes many things about Patrick, but noted, “I like that he doesn’t listen to every word everybody says. He’s listening more to what they’re trying to say.”
Mr. Burk explained Patrick tries to understand people and sincerely believes he’s always doing the right thing.
The production features original music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”). The book for the musical is by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (showrunner of The CW’s “Riverdale”).
Mr. Burk and the rest of the large cast, which consists of actors from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and Los Angeles, sang music from their show during a conference with the News-Press and other media in the rehearsal space. Their songs include an energetic, song-and-dance number called “Selling Out.”
“I want it all,” the cast sang.
At the same news conference, Mr. Burk, and Renee Cohen, who portrays Patrick’s girlfriend Evelyn Williams, sang the song, “If We Get Married.” The song also features Marnie Stone, who plays Jean, Patrick’s secretary. Ms. Stone, whose character is in love with Patrick, sang her part of the song down stage from Mr. Burk and Ms. Cohen.
“I personally think there are no toe tappers, but that’s what makes this so special,” said Kyle Caldwell, who plays David Van Patten, one of Patrick’s friends. “It’s got a very murderous undertone, and it acts like a soundtrack to a horror movie rather than a nice, shiny musical.”
Ms. Eve praised music director Kacey Link and choreographer Chloé Roberts for their work on the show, set in the 1980s.
Besides the possible serial killings, the satirical musical examines consumerism and the misogynistic attitudes of the 1980s corporate world.
“What’s interesting about Patrick is his dad is the president of a company. There’s no reason for him to worry about money ever,” Mr. Burk said. “To him, the money is an object, like the men and women around him.”
Shayde Bridges said that her character, Evelyn’s best friend Courtney Lawrence, and others don’t have to worry about paying rent or bills, but are still living imperfect lives. “There’s clearly some level of emptiness and pain going on in these people.”
She said Courtney and other individuals go partying, dancing and clubbing to make up for what’s missing in their lives.
Brittany Harter said her character, a prostitute named Sabrina, is one of the more authentic individuals in the story. “I play a hero who gets the raw end of the deal.”
The musical features a character not included in the book or the movie: Patrick’s mother. Deborah Bertling, who plays Mrs. Bateman, said the addition was made to humanize Patrick, “to show he is a human being, that he was once a little child and that I loved him as a little child.”
Ms. Eve said Patrick grows up to live in a world that rewards him for his sociopathic behavior.
“He doesn’t like the person that he’s portraying, but he doesn’t know how to stop.”