Chronicles drawn from true stories told by R.D.Robbins, MD with Medical Sidebar Songs by Shelly Gartner

The fantastical vaudevillian journey of a young doctor battling the absurdities of the medical world… with music and clowns! Mostly taking place in the corridors of medicine, "Dr. Cutter" jousts with urban rats, bums, blood, guns, & the nature of sons.


Surgeon-in-training Sam Cutter and traveling companion, a clown named Loopy, attempt to navigate the baroque world of an urban hospital with gallows humor and a strong stomach until life on the Ward goes seriously sour, and the pair must find a way to get their day in clown court. An almost-all-true surgical circus with Suicide, Homelessness, Medical Hypocrisy, & Songs in the Side Rings.


The source material for Dr. Cutter's chronicles is a huge collection of short stories written by Dick Robbins in the few years between his early retirement from surgery & his early death, as well as the many stories he told Carrie Robbins throughout their long marriage.

Dick wrote hundreds of stories, and I believe this source material is powerful. I believe its voice & p.o.v. is unique. I believe this NOT just because I'm related to the writer, but because in the few years he wrote, about 75 stories were published worldwide (U.S.A., Great Britain, Hong Kong, Canada), requests came in for him to read his work at readings in New York City and Boston, and 4 of his stories garnered PushCart Prize Nominations. (The PushCart is awarded for short story format only.) Sadly, Dick only knew of one nomination. It was this 'outside' vetting which gave me the hubris to attempt to shape the material into the single story he never got to tell.

After his death it took more than a year to sort through all the stories, identify the common threads, & begin to braid the recurring themes together. This is the genesis of "The Death & Life of Dr. Cutter."


In 2007, two private readings, with the aid of splendid actors, were somewhat encouraging. But 2008 had to be set aside for design work. In 2009, Abingdon Theatre Company (W. 36th St.) selected "Dr.Cutter" to be part of its 'First Readings' Series.

It became clear that some of the material was too grim and upsetting to hear. But I began to think that if a tough bit were sheathed in a jolly melody, it might be better tolerated. It also became apparent that some of the play depended on specialized information that not everyone has access to, even those who don't miss an episode of "House" or "Grey's Anatomy". And so, more songs were sidebars...additional background information.

In August of 2010, 2 readings were held at the Snapple Rehearsal Studios (w.50th & B'way). Reaction to these was even more encouraging. People laughed. People cried. What more could you want?


The style of this piece is not 'realistic'. It's not set in a kitchen or a living room. It's meant to be fluid, because it's only in the theatre that we can call on our imaginations to transport us from throne rooms to battlegrounds, (or, in this case, from O.R's to open fields) without all the technique and flotsam TV & film use. We do it differently in the Theatre... with a few carefully selected objects, 'species-specific' lighting, a particularized soundscape, and, most importantly, the kind of 'muscular' actors who can show us what's 'there' without it really being there, actors who paint vividly, with vigorous strokes. And I'm privileged to always have had a cast who can do this kind of work.

RDR said some of these scenes are "too tough for the room". But I believe it's the theatre's job to talk about the tougher stuff. (I like to think there's still an ecological niche for serious theatre.) This play is set in a closed world with its own rituals, and secret language, and unremitting urgency. And I hope you learn something new from watching the play. I like learning new things when I go to the theatre. Maybe that's because I have a low tolerance for being bored. But I don't think I'm alone in this. 24 million people have watched "House" on TV weekly; The long-running "Grey's Anatomy" still attracts over 10 million viewers most weeks.

Medical stories have mesmerized audiences of the little screen since the little screen was invented.


Even though some of the situations of extremis in the play may seem rather fantastical, I promise you they are truthful. They really happened, here in New York City, some years ago. They were described and written by the person who was there.

There is one thing which is not exactly true, & I will tell it to you now. In the play, in an OB/GYN sequence, a patient named Maria has a beautiful baby girl, with the delivery help of Dr. Sam Cutter. She names the baby after him: "Samantha". The real patient's name was not Maria, the delivery actually happened in the elevator on the way up to the delivery room. And the real baby was named Robin.

Carrie Robbins, nyc