Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen ★½

"When you stop and think about it, Connor being dead, that's pretty much the best thing that ever happened to you, isn't it?"

When you tell a story about bad people, you have to admit that these are bad people. Dear Evan Hansen is a monstrously flawed start to a important conversation--no, not about suicide prevention--about the exploitations of mental illness and funeral politics. Because of that, I'm not going to just write some throw away review about Ben Platt's hair. There is an actual discussion to be had here.

It's ironic how this story has always been marketed as hopeful. Inspirational even. When I saw the production at the Orpheum theatre in 2019, I remember seeing the merch stand with the words "YOU WILL BE FOUND" sprayed everywhere as if it was something more than another vague rendition of "it gets better". If I could, I'd replace "you will be found" with "YOU AND YOUR DEATH WILL BE EXPLOITED". Admittedly less marketable. But hey, exploitation is what this story is really about; Connor's family exploits Evan, pressuring him into the most unthinkable crime, and Evan exploits anything and everything around him. But Connor's family isn't at fault.

This is always what happens when the reaper comes with short notice: you scramble at any sign of happy remembrance. We all stand at funerals and make those blanket statements about how good of a person someone was. We've all played a role in exploiting pain, in pretending to be closer to a situation than you really were... we all know somebody who "knew somebody". I don't think Evan is a monster for wanting to offer the relief that Connor's family begs of him. What makes him a monster is the cost of that so called relief.

The ugliness and the brutal actions are the best part of this story. Only when you look at it on paper, the first two thirds of this story are very strong. The structure, the honesty of how horrible human nature can be... if only we would go far enough to turn our focus from the "such a good message" of it all. If only more time was allotted to the hypocrisy of Alana, Zoe's pessimistic view of Connor as a person, or most importantly, the accountability that Evan fails to truly take (see season six of Bojack Horseman for a better idea of what this should've been).

I hate to say this only because of how much I love Sincerely Me, the only solid 10/10 amongst all of these horrible ballads … but I think at least a third of the problems here would be solved if this weren't a musical. I love musicals, but I honestly prefer the film over the performance only due to the shorter runtime.

As much as I admire the structure and much of the chaos this story has to offer, I can't only see it for what I want to see. They didn't have the balls to go there, so I'm not gonna pretend like they did. And that anti-climax of a ending is the nail in the coffin.

EDIT: shoutout to any fellow Columbia College Chicago kids who saw this at the early screening today! This was insane. 

meridian🦇 liked these reviews