Thursday, April 22, 2021

Favorite Designs: The Design of American Psycho

Favorite Designs:
The Design of American Psycho

Theater truly is a collaborative art. Each element depends on and enhances the others. An excellent example of this is the design for American Psycho. It struck me when I was researching for this article, and I was going to single out the projection design, which are the current gold standard, in my opinion. Turns out, and it is so obvious to me now, that projections wouldn't be what they were without the lighting and set designs, so integrated are they.

Es Devlin (Sets), Justin Townsend (Lighting), Finn Ross (Projection)

So, first, let's consider the set design of Es Devlin, who created sort of magic all-white box set. White is so clean, and perfect for conveying the lead character's O.C.D. The set walls are movable, and the floor moves, just like his mind. All-white walls also allow a blank slate for Justin Townsend's brilliant lighting design. 

Not only can the lighting design be a fully austere white, but it allows for very clean (again the O.C.D.) color washes. Here, Townsend uses light washes to subliminally put us in Patrick Bateman's mind. Bateman is obsessed with film and technology, consequently, his mind, when crazed, sees things as projections. Video technology is based entirely around a three color pallet - red, green and blue. Red blood, green money, blue icy emotions. 


Those two elements offer the perfect medium for Finn Ross' mind-blowing video projections, which offer the audience a frightening glimpse at not only how his mind works, but what his psychosis looks like. Not only are Ross' images a perfect match for the show, but the methods by which they are conveyed are sensory banquet. Sometimes, the images move in regimented vertical then horizontal patterns. Other times, they are static, frozen in place, set like a prison. Still other times, they come in a frenzied, disjointed rush. Always they mirror the mind of an American psycho.


I'm of the mind that American Psycho was a show way ahead of its time, and that some day it will be back, ready to thrill and terrify audiences ready to embrace it in all of its bloody excess.


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