Sunday, December 09, 2018

Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen got out about 45 minutes ago. I've been listening to the soundtrack, off and on, for the past year.

The play was excellent. I highly recommend those with the means to see it. However, there are a few elements that I found harder to deal with on the stage than simply listening to the songs.

The play's about a socially awkward and depressed high school senior who tries to do a good thing for a family after their son kills himself and they find a letter addressed to Evan Hansen in the son's pocket. Evan tries to tell them he wrote the letter to himself, but the parent's, in their grief, can't hear what Evan's saying. Evan let's them believe what they want at first, but soon starts actively lying to them because he wants to help and knows that the truth will only hurt the family. And that's what really rubbed me the wrong way. The lying.

I knew from the soundtrack that Evan lied, but it was easier to handle in songs because that's all it was: songs. On stage I saw Evan continuing the lies and adding to them every time he spoke to the family. He dug himself deeper into the lie-pit and the jumped in after. He liked making them feel better and he liked spending time with a "normal" family.

The family not only ate up the lies, but they began actively changing their memories of the dead boy to fit what THEY WANTED him to be. The sister says that her brother pounded on her door saying he wanted to kill her. (This info is not in a song.) Then she sings about how awful he was to her and how she will not sing a requiem for him. She knew he was a monster and didn't want the new information to paint him in a better light. She does read it, though, and begins to forgive the heinous things he did and, maybe, even forget them.

The lie gets spread to the school and then the rest of the world, to the point that our main characters defraud the public out of $50,000 on a Kickstarter campaign. (Yes, the farm gets refurbished and whatnot, but it's still based on a lie and is therefore fraud.)

When the truth comes our the family hate Evan and never want to see him again, but in the end they admit that they are better for Evan's lies. Evan is punished by his girlfriend, the sister, breaking up with him. Even then there's still room for them to be friends, we learn in the end.

I did enjoy the show. I enjoyed it a lot. This just stuck in my craw during the play and after because, ultimately, the play isn't about the lie. It's about isolation and loneliness and family and kids and parents and depression. And all of that is lovely and sad and hopeful.

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