DR. BANNER'S GARDEN
© 2000 by Hugh Aaron
A Stage Play based on a short story of the same name.
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
South Side Chicago in 1947, on a street near the University, an old
Victorian house with a garden.
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.
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
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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