Grieving and Growing Up Online

I chose my seat carefully on this Sunday afternoon – not too close to the front, on the aisle, with a good view and an escape plan. A theater, or any tight space, is to my chronic anxiety what oxygen is to fire. In fact, the thought had crossed my mind, if there was a fire during this afternoon’s matinee it was a good thing that I sat near the exit.

“Does anyone have a map?” two mothers, desperate for guidance, beg in the opening number of the musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” Immediately, we are engulfed by a story that might as well have been lifted from the peaks and valleys of my anxious brain.

Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), a slender high school senior, laments the stresses of his first day back in school: a broken arm and a mother (played with heart-rending precision by Rachel Bay Jones) who just hopes someone will sign his cast. Though what Evan is afraid of most, and what I can attest is far worse than fires and crowded theaters, is saying no. It is this fear propels his life into an excruciating tailspin, starting when a grave misunderstanding at school thrusts him into the spotlight.   

What becomes painfully clear as the months unfurl, is that even when every fiber of his (and our) being screams stop, something happens – a new friend, a first kiss, or a moment of fleeting stardom– that forces Evan to continue lying to those around him, namely a grieving mother and father (Jennifer Laura Thompson and Michael Park) and their daughter Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss). As the musical continues, I struggle to forgive Evan for his mistakes, but I see that there is kindness in his heart. I am anxious because I see so much of myself in the characters onstage who are, in an instant, connected with one another, for better or for worse.

When the dust finally settles and the tears have dried, “Dear Evan Hansen” reminds us to watch out for the ones we love and those people who go unnoticed in a time when “likes” are social capital. And if you are one of those people like Evan, like me, take comfort in knowing that, as he puts it, “you will be found.”  –Alex Minton

Ben Platt and Laura Dreyfuss in Dear Evan Hansen. Photo Credit

Ben Platt and Laura Dreyfuss in Dear Evan Hansen. Photo Credit

Alex Minton '17 is an American Studies major at Wesleyan University.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is currently playing at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, NY.
Directed by: Michael Greif (RENT, Next to Normal) 
Featuring: Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Rachel Bay Jones, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Michael Park, Mike Faist, Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd
Book by: Steven Levinson
Score by: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul