WICKER PARK — Effortless charisma, impressive physique, a smile to die for: Chicago, meet your favorite new (fictional, fortunately) serial killer.
His name: Patrick Bateman, of course. Or make that Kyle Patrick, the lead actor flexing his talents onstage in Kokandy Productions’ “American Psycho.” The Chicago premiere of a musical that flopped on Broadway in 2016 — an ill-fated adaptation of the infamous novel-cum-movie thriller — this perfect-for-Halloween show opened this month and is running through Thanksgiving weekend at Wicker Park’s Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St.
Theatergoers have embraced this twisted but engaging tuner, making it the second-best-selling show in the company’s history. “The audience gets audible in this show,” Patrick said. “We hear people whispering, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Or people crying out, ‘No, don’t do it!’”
Despite his sins, the onstage Patrick Bateman remains compelling.
“Serial killers tend to present as very charismatic people,” Patrick said. “That’s what makes them terrifying.”
The musical is much more fun than any show about a murderous Wall Street banker ought to be. For one thing, the violence is mostly suggested — no worries about splattering stage blood. That’s good news for the audience members, seated mere feet from both sides of the narrow runway stage.
The original score by pop musician and Tony winner Duncan Sheik includes oddball songs such as “Cards.” Mixed in with these strange numbers are smartly selected ’80s hits, including Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” New Order’s “True Faith” and, of course, a thrillingly tense version of Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to be Square.”
Anchoring it all is the magnetic main performance by Patrick, a 28-year-old artist who lives in Lincoln Square. Whether he’s bopping through a nightclub on a killing spree, doing sun salutations in tighty whities or singing through tears during a climactic mental breakdown (watch out, Ben Platt!), his villainous protagonist always commands attention.
It feels like a perfect match of role to actor, down to the amusing similarity of their names. “The cast actually lovingly calls me ‘Kyle Patrick Patrick Bateman,’” he said.
While some actors are dubbed “triple threats” — they can act, sing and dance — Patrick has a few more nouns on his multi-hyphenated list, including aerialist and screenwriter. He honed those last two skills during the pandemic, looking for new creative outlets when live performances had ground to a halt.
Patrick met Derek Van Barham, Kokandy’s producing artistic director, at Sidetrack video bar a few years ago, but the two hadn’t worked together until now.
“I knew that he had experience in modeling, film, musical theater and circus arts,” Van Barham said. “It checked all the boxes for the physical and artistic conditioning we’d want for Patrick Bateman.”
Anyone familiar with the story knows the disturbed protagonist’s unreliable mental state is key to the narrative. Patrick also wrote and stars in “Subsurface,” a short film that tells a very different story about mental health. Less than a week before the musical opened in late September, “Subsurface” won an award from the Chicago-based Aladerri International Film Festival, which celebrates short films.
“Subsurface” was born from Patrick’s 2020 journals, which included pandemic-induced feelings of artistic stagnation. He formed his own company, SoliFilm Productions, to make the seven-minute short. He also consulted with mental health professionals during the writing process, wanting to be sure he’d taken proper care in crafting a story about a character struggling with suicidal thoughts.
It’s a personal story for Patrick, whose beloved aunt died when he was in high school. He eventually learned that she’d been dealing with clinical depression and schizophrenia.
“As a kid, I was pushed into a box: ‘We don’t talk about those things.’ Now as an adult, I ask, ‘Why not?’” he says. “So making ‘Subsurface’ was hard. It definitely challenged the rules I was fed when I was young. But I knew that the more vulnerable I allowed myself to be, there would be greater potential for others for people to see it and be inspired.”
After going into that deeply personal place to tell the hopeful “Subsurface,” Patrick also gets to tackle the flip side in the misanthropic but comedic “Psycho.” It prompts the question: Do villains really have more fun?
“Oh gosh, I think so,” the actor said. “There’s a really lovely opportunity of letting out the id on stage. You know, if you’re playing a Disney prince, you’re the epitome of superego and you have to be kind. But if somebody’s phone goes off during this show or they drop their drink, I give them a look. They’re quiet after that.”
“American Psycho” runs at the Chopin Theatre through Nov. 26. Tickets are $30-$50 and are available online. More information is available at the theater’s website.
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