May 1, 2016

If an exposed nerve ending could walk, talk and attend high school, it would surely resemble the title character of the terrific musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” about a friendless 17-year-old played with such prickly authenticity by the wonderful Ben Platt that you can practically feel his flop sweat on your own brow. What’s Evan so anxious about? Well, what have you got? Even ordering in food — a seemingly stress-free transaction, as his mother points out, in the age of online access — sends Evan into a tailspin of fear. “You have to talk to the delivery person when they come to the door,” he explains. “Then they have to make change. You have to stand there while it’s silent and they’re counting the change and … ” His voice trails off, as he envisions the horrific scene in his angst-addled mind. But it’s primarily the agony of being a misfit facing his first day as a high school senior — with a crush on a junior he can’t bring himself to approach — that gives Evan the jitters. He has been advised by his therapist to improve his self-image by writing himself daily pep notes. As he’s dutifully printing one out at school, it’s snatched up by another outsider, the black-clad Connor (Mike Faist), who stuffs it in his pocket. And noticing that poor Evan has been unable to find anyone to sign the cast on his broken arm, Connor scrawls his name across it with a mocking sneer.