If one takes the time to ask others What makes a good play?, people are bound to say different answers. Some may say that a good play is one that they could relate to, while some may hold the sound and music used in a play to be the most important aspects of a good play.
People may even say that the themes and the relevance of the play are details which should be considered. Dear Evan Hansen, a musical by Steven Levenson along with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for the music and lyrics, has almost everything that most people consider to be characteristics of a good play. Dear Evan Hansen focuses on a boy, Evan, and his journey in finding himself after going through all the obstacles and the consequences of his actions and lies which were set into motion following the death of Connor Murphy. Following Evan, Dear Evan Hansen, takes us through a fascinating journey based on parental love, social media, and todays society which would send us laughing, crying, and hating and understanding people altogether.
Right from the start, the story beautifully sets up the setting and the relationship of each character with one another through songs that resonate with everyones hearts. The first song of the first scene of Act I, Anybody Have a Map?, along with the dialogue happening in between the song shows us the dynamics of the relationship in both Evan Hansens and Connor Murphys family. Through the lyrics sung by Evans single mom, Heidi, we see the struggles she has in trying to understand Evan. Heidi sings, Another stumble as Im reaching for the right thing to say. In addition, Connors family is seen having breakfast together and it is in this scene where we first see Connor and the problems he has with his family as a result of his drug use. We see Larry Murphy, Connors dad, who seems to have given up caring about Connor as Larry says, He [Connor] doesnt listen. We are also shown Zoe, Connors sister, and her troubled relationship with her brother shown to us through the bickering that the two siblings have over breakfast whereby both say the words fuck you to each other. Amidst all this, we are shown Cynthia, Connors mom, trying to keep everything in order as she sings, I try to steer through it a million ways. But each days another wrong turn. Later, both moms sing the chorus of the song which goes Does anybody have a map? Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?. Through this first scene, the musical shows us a glimpse of a wonderful play which would tackle family as one of its themes as we go further through Evans journey and the wonderfully crafted songs, spread throughout the entirety of the musical, which tugs at everyones heartstrings.
Later on, in the story, we also come to realize the big role which social media plays in the Evans story which is indicative of the relevance of the musical as it targets one of the most important aspects of todays society. In the play, we are introduced to The Connor Project, a project started by Evan and his high school mates, Alana and Jared, as a way to commemorate Connor Murphys suicide and to serve as a reminder that everyone matters. The Connor Project is blown out of proportion because of a video of Evans speech about Connor which ultimately goes viral as people found Evan and his feeling of being alone as something relatable and must therefore be shared to the world. The song, You Will Be Found, also brilliantly helps to show this as the songs lyrics go, Even when the dark comes crashin through…You will be found. The repetition of the words You will be found grips at everyones heart and the stunning idea of intermingling voices of virtual people in the song further propels the play to higher grounds as it grapples with social media in todays society making Dear Evan Hansen all the more relatable.
The play, Dear Evan Hansen, not only shows social media positively but also the potential harmful and dangerous situations that may play out because of the Internet. In the reprise of the song You Will Be Found, we are once again shown the virtual voices intermingled in the song as the scene presents to us the threats and dangerous, irrational actions of people against the Murphy family that were brought about because of the suicide letter of Connor that was posted on the Internet by Alana. Through both scenes whereby the song You Will Be Found was used, the musical presents to us the different aspects of the Internet and how that has affected todays society thereby supporting the relevance of the play in todays world. The themes of family and social media present in the play are only some of the great themes that the play tackles which further bolsters the musical as a play that people of all ages could relate to.
However good a play may be, one is bound to find some negative aspects of the play, in one way or another, and that is no different with Dear Evan Hansen. The musical, despite the entertaining songs and great themes, does come with some details that must be pointed out. First, the ending of the play feels as if the writers rushed through it and didnt pay much attention. The play ended without closure for some of the characters of the play, in particular, Alana and Jared who were both part of The Connor Project along with Evan. However, their last scenes found in the play were ones wherein they fought with Evan and ultimately leaves him or one wherein the suicide letter was posted online. In the end, we never get to know whether Jared or Alana does expose Evans lie or what happens to both of the characters lives. Although, this might be one of the writers intention; to leave us with an open ending which would lead us to wonder and think for ourselves thereby putting ourselves in the characters shoes.
Moreover, the ending scene tells us of a rather unrealistic ending whereby the Murphy family forgives Evan Hansen for all the lies he has told them and leaves Evan to go unpunished for all the sins he has committed against everyone. The last scene of the play entails Zoe and Evan talking in the orchard dedicated to Connors memory, in part of The Connor Project. However, in this scene, we see Zoe and Evan talking peacefully to each other as Zoe tells Evan, that his lie helped them and it saved my [Zoes] parents. Zoe further goes on to say Everybody needed it for something thereby showing us how Zoe understands Evan and all his lies. Neither Zoe nor her parents blame Evan and they also never express their anger on Evan. This scene may eventually push the message of forgiveness for people who have done wrong things, just like Evan did with his lies, and also the message that people can go unpunished despite doing bad things. On the other hand, it may be that the writers wanted to impart the idea of hope and humanity to us; humanity whereby everyone tries to understand each other and see the bigger picture; humanity, something that seems to slowly disappear from this world. One can only wonder what the writers true intentions are.