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DR. BANNER'S GARDEN
© 2000 by Hugh Aaron
A Stage Play based on a short story of the same name.

CHARACTERS:
CLARISSA (DR. BANNER): A cancer research scientist and professor emeritus of The University of Chicago, age 85
JUSTINE: Clarissa's companion and research assistant, age 65
PETE: A student at the University of Chicago, and part time gardener
LENNY: Pete's friend and fellow student
VICKI: Pete's girlfriend and fellow student


SETTING:
South Side Chicago in 1947, on a street near the University, an old Victorian house with a garden.

STRUCTURE:
19 scenes covering a seasonal progression from fall to winter to fall again and winter. They take place in rooms in the house, in the garden, in a park, in a concert hall, in a car, in a Colosseum, and in a cemetery.

SYNOPSIS:
Dr. Banner, a Nobel prize winning scientist, and her companion/assistant, Justine, hire Pete, a newly enrolled student at the University of Chicago and a World War II veteran, to tend their neglected garden. The doctor is declining physically, and is depressed. Both women have cut off all contact with the outside world. But, as the garden is restored, the women are heartened by its revival. They also find themselves warming to their fresh, vigorous, dedicated young hiree.

Justine, shares her appreciation of literature with Pete, and Dr. Banner, having once considered a piano career on the concert stage, shares her love for classical music with him. They attend concerts together and listen to records. He discovers that she had had an affair with one of the orchestra's conductors and that she was a former student of the famous pianist Artur Rubinstein. He also learns that the doctor had won a Nobel Prize for her biomedical research.

Pete introduces the women to his brilliant college friend Lenny who has a large record collection, and his girlfriend Vicki who is a dedicated piano student. Lenny confides to Justine his parental and homosexual problems. During a record concert in the doctor's home, Vicki is persuaded to play on the concert grand that had been gathering dust in the living room, revealing her enormous talent. The concert goes on all night and culminates with Pete making love to Vicki in another room.

Dr. Banner's revival reactivates her interest in left wing politics. At a rally she gives a rousing speech supporting Henry Wallace, the presidential candidate, who stands with her on the podium. She urges Pete to follow a political career. However, she and Pete have an altercation over Vicki and Pete leaves expecting never to return.

Months later Pete knocks on the women's door and learns that the doctor who is failing, perhaps fatally, cannot see him. The garden is in disarray. Justine and Dr. Banner agree to end their useless lives in a suicide pact. Pete and Lenny break in to the house and discover both women dead. At their graves, Pete, who plans to become a journalist, and feeling guilty over his last hostile words with the doctor, promises to keep their memory alive through his writing. Lenny, confessing his homosexuality, finds that Pete has known it all along, and that their friendship remains solid.


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