Dr. Cook's Garden is one of several Levin works which put issues of medical, scientific, and technological ethics at the fore. (Among them The Boys from Brazil, Sliver, The Stepford Wives, and above all This Perfect Day.)
“It’s my first play for Broadway since ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ 12 years ago and I think it’s very exciting. It’s the only one I’ve liked wholeheartedly since ‘Cat’ and I’ve read a lot of them, I can tell you. I play a doctor in a Vermont town. This Ira Levin writes artfully and with a craftsman’s hand.”
—Burl Ives (North American Newspaper Alliance, 1967)
We find it fascinating that Levin wrote Dr. Cook immediately after Rosemary's Baby – given the role that Dr. Sapirstein played in that work. (No tannis root in this garden, however.)
Not one to hold a grudge, Levin consented to work with George C. Scott a second time. (See our General Seeger NOT-SO-FUN FACT.) Despite this background, Scott abandoned his director's post over issues with star Burl Ives – leaving Levin to finish directing the play himself.
But the issues didn't stop there, unfortunately: Burl Ives himself did not show for the final rehearsals and previews. (His understudy Seymour Penzner filled in – with whom Levin was quite pleased.) Only after producer Saint Subber threatened Ives with a lawsuit did the Silver and Gold singer surface for the final run-through and opening.