Last night, I saw Dear Evan Hansen, the musical about an anxious, shame-filled high school senior. The play deals with broken families, suicide, OCD, social anxiety, and attachment. The music and the singing in this touring production was fantastic. I cried several times, and laughed a few. Still I was distressed with some serious problems:
- The "therapy", for the boy, which we never saw, was Evan writing a letter to himself, each morning, about how good his day would be. Ineffective CBT, with no dealing with his evident attachment issues (abandoned by dad at 7, and with a completely unavailable (time-wise and attention-wise) mom, nor his obvious social anxiety, PTSD, and OCD.
- The suicide of a main character, the son of another family, was never fully characterized. We know he used drugs and avoided school, was shame-filled and narcissistically violent, in an attempt to protect from that shame. But we didn't know much else about him.
- A main character, Jared, was an obviously Jewish stereotype that made me cringe: loud, manipulative, whiny, and somewhat sociopathic. Even though the man who wrote the "book" of the play, is probably Jewish (Levenson), it felt very anti-semetic to me.
- Evan's own suicide attempt is hinted at, throughout, but never really explained. And he never gets real help. This could have been a great way to show a kid talking to a crisis-line, or in a group, or otherwise getting good care. A lot of teenagers see this musical, and it could have been a great way to show what's available. There were texts, emails, Facebook, and instagram posts in the background of the set, throughout. I wish they would have had Evan or others interacting with https://www.crisistextline.org/ as a way to show where help is available.
- There's a homophobic setup at one time. I wish it wasn't there.