In San Jose, 'Dear Evan Hansen' Captures Social Media Anxiety On Stage

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Stephen Christopher Anthony in the touring production of 'Dear Evan Hansen,' running through June 19 in San Jose.  (Matthew Murphy)

Everyone knows that social media causes anxiety. Study after study has proved it, and in late 2021, Senate hearings addressed it.

Conveying this modern reality through art isn't an easy task. And while the movie adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen was poorly made, overlong and terribly reviewed, the musical of Dear Evan Hansen (which runs June 8–19 in San Jose) captures it perfectly.

Social media is a constant, ambient presence in the modern world, surrounding its users and informing their every move. In the stage set of Dear Evan Hansen, this is made literal: social media feeds are projected upon giant pillars, towering over the action on stage. The posts and tweets are both the cause and commentariat of the story unfolding below, a ceaseless threat upon the musical's high school-age characters.

And it's no wonder that the main character, Evan Hansen, has extreme anxiety.

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Dear Evan Hansen's script is not without its flaws. I am not the first to point out the finale's lack of comeuppance, or that some of the play's online references are already obsolete and need updating. But for anyone who's tried to coexist with social media and found it to be at first fascinating, then addicting, then boring, and ultimately paralyzing, the show captures the experience really, really well.

'Dear Evan Hansen' runs through June 19 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Details here.