‘ Dear Evan Hansen ‘
A second visit to the multi-Tony winning Dear Evan Hansen , for the occasion of Taylor Trensch taking over the title role from breakout superstar Ben Platt( and brilliant Trensch is ), reminds you how incredibly perverse this musical is.
Dear Evan Hansen , directed against Michael Greif and a win of six Tony Awards in 2017, focuses on the aftermath of a teen suicide.
Throughout the depict, it remains unclear why the character of lank-haired, softly menacing Connor Murphy( Mike Faist ), who commits suicide, does so. Yet it is the suicide of this character that sets the musical in queasy motion. Of course, many suicides are mysterious–and extremely painful for being so inexplicable. It’s just that Dear Evan Hansen utilizes one as a plot device, after we have met that character. It stimulates little dramatic sense, and then becomes the engine of the show.
Evan builds everything around Connor’s suicide a lie, because of a prescribed-by-shrink self-affirming letter he writes to himself in the third person. Connor’s parents believe the letter was from their son to Evan, as it was detected with him.( It wasn’t. Connor was blackmailing Evan with it .) Not merely is their son’s suicide a mystery, it then becomes the lie of a deluded teenager.
From here on, Evan is in a desperate, ever crazier spin trying to maintain the lie they were friends–to maintain their parents’ faith in the innate goodness of their son, and to secure the affections of Connor’s sister Zoe( a crisp and pointedly suspicious-then-sweet Laura Dreyfuss ).
Get ready for that toe-tapper–with head-banging, jiving choreography by Danny Mefford–about stimulating up an online life for a dead kid, and an online relationship with a dead child, because you can’t face telling his parents that you weren’t friends. And get ready for that toe-tapper to include the dead kid returned as a ghost.
The rest of the original Dear Evan Hansen cast are still in place, and perhaps it says something about hour, habit, and performance, but all their performances seem sharper and more defined than this time a year ago, when they opened on Broadway.
Trensch as Evan is nervier and slighter than Platt.( You severely worry for him when Connor pushes him over early on .) Yet, for as puppyish and lost as Evan seems, he’s also acting as something of a weirdo, if not a sociopath. This the musical skirts in favor of farce.
It is not just Connor’s suicidal impressions that go unclarified in the production; so does whatever the psychological illness that Evan has. We detected how desperate it has left him feeling, and we also see in her feeling performance the effects of it on his single mom, Heidi( Tony winner Rachel Bay Jones ), whose big song in Act II offsets her nervy attempts to find a way to connect Evan preceding it.
The musical voices a lot lighter than its dark tendencies. This is really about broken children, and broken adults trying to keep them as safe and loved because they can even as the broken children break even harder in front of them.
You will be aware of much crying and sniffling around you, and this is down to the specificity of the writing of both volume( Steven Levenson) and songs( Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire ). The anthems are not just about heartbreak and loss but about more difficult impressions, like ambivalence about a loved one’s death, as Zoe feels about Connor, who was relentlessly cruel to her. The musical has a lot of jagged edges and unresolved feelings that stay unresolved and hidden in its hummable songs.
Michael Park as Connor’s dad is particularly penetrating, bonding cautiously with Evan, who has never had a daddy. Jennifer Laura Thompson as Mike’s desolate mom clings to Evan, and cooks for him. This part-confected household grouping requires one another, even if that need is based on a lie.
Evan also needs Jared( Will Roland ), the most asshole-ish co-conspirator a nervous schemer could ever wish for. His mirth at fabricating an email relationship between Evan and Connor, and his reminders to Evan about the perversity of his project, are a welcome lighten of the musical’s mood and needed winks to us from the writers and producer that yes, this is all very strange.
Around the characters loom screens of scrolling messages and online crazes, effectively designed by David Korins, triggered by Evan and Connor’s story. Alana( Kristolyn Lloyd ), a high school high-achiever, is as swept up in its aftermath as anyone else, and–like Evan and like everyone–seeks to make-up more out of a connection to Connor in demise than she ever shared in life.
The musical is as much a irony of internet pile-ons and social media sorrow huddles as it is about confused youth. The absurdity merely maintains getting bigger, and as Connor’s story becomes a huge phenomenon, Evan becomes more scared about telling the truth.
Trensch’s skill is to transition in a winking from tormented teen, his body contorted like a pretzel, to the belting Broadway star( he previously played Barnaby Tucker in the Bette Midler Hello, Dolly ! ). One doesn’t invalidate the other. But his astonishing singing voice reminds you why he is on stage. The objective of the demonstrate feels rushed. You wonder if everything would be resolved so neatly after, well, all that .
But by then, if you are not crying or feeling a little stunned, you might also be delighted to see such a fine company acting and singing up such a storm.
You wonder not just at their energy, but also at their accomplished is committed to building Dear Evan Hansen plausible. They pare the extremity of the demonstrate back to the basics of broken children and flawed but basically good mothers; they construct the characters believable and close. And Trensch is so good he deserves to leave the prove as much of a breakout starring as Platt, who–as good timing would have it–secured his first result film role on the same day as Trensch’s opening night.
Dear Evan Hansen is at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45 th Street, New York City. Book tickets here .
‘ Flight ‘
It is fitting that Flight should be at the McKittrick Hotel, New York home most famously of Sleep No More . Like Sleep No More , Flight is its own work of particular wonder, and please do all you can to go and see it. It is a story of migration, an escape to a better life of two orphaned brothers from Afghanistan, the older Aryan and younger Kabir.
You merely hear rather than consider the actors: Farshid Rokey as Aryan and Nalini Chetty as Kabir. You sit in a darkened booth and watch the action unfold in front of you in a series of boxes and tableaux inhabited by miniature models( Rebecca Hamilton is the lead model decorator, imparting so much on such small figures ), with crisp narration by Emun Elliott.
Everything works in smooth tandem. Simon Wilkinson’s lighting within the boxes and tableaux helps move us through night and day, whole continents, the plains of mountains, sparkling sea, and abruptly a door opens a crack and there is a sliver of illuminate aimed right at you.
Flight is visually stunning and incredibly powerful as a story, as we follow the sons from the mountains of Afghanistan through Greece and Italy, France, and then finally, will they make it to London?
The tales of Aryan and Kabir are fictional, but an amalgam of stories that journalist Caroline Brother amassed from interviewing real-life refugees and asylum seekers across Europe, in preparation for her novel Hinterland .
Oliver Emanuel sensitively adapted Brothers’ work into the play, directed by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison, co-artistic directors of Scottish theater company Vox Motus.
You hear the boys’ story through a pair of headphones, and it is not just voices in Mark Melville’s all-surrounding soundscape, but the whoosh of waves, the blur of traffic, and the nasty audio of seagulls, which are imagined as the threatening authorities. There is even the heroic spirit guidebook of Bruce Willis, and if you ever wondered how Die Hard should look as a model, wonder no longer.
The sensation is genuinely immersive. At one moment you really do feel as if you are being battered by the ocean waves as the boys’ barge is; or playing football with them; or having a random encounter with a bunch of rich young lady from America, keen to buy them colorful sneakers.
You see the sons peering through a cake shop’s window in Paris, you feel their desperation as they face all manner of exploitation. There is terror and there is joy, and there is also the affirmation of a quest, a desire for better, of sheer grit and determination–and the piercing realization that such journeys have one various kinds of misfortune at their beginning and sometimes another totally different one at their aim. And even after all that, the quest continues.
Flight is at the McKittrick Hotel, 530 West 27 th Street, New York City. Book through April 8 here .
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