Inspired by an actual case history denoted by Carl Jung, the play traces the story of a little New England girl, Emma, who makes a booklet of her dreams which she gives to her psychiatrist father, Charles Hatrick, for Christmas. Still numbed with grief over the death of his wife, Dr. Hatrick is unable to make sense of these amazing dreams and passes the book along to his mentor, the Professor, who is visiting from abroad. The structure of the play sets the daily life of Emma against the re-creation of these dreams, which are enacted by the individuals who inhabit her world: her governess-housekeeper, Jenny; her best friend, Rindy; a rich neurotic whom Dr. Hatrick is treating, Dorothy Trowbridge; Emma's ballet teacher, Miss Banton; and a young protégé of Dr. Hatrick's, Sanford Putnam. The dreams, which are disturbing and phantasmagoric, are described by the Professor as those of an older person, one who is facing death. As the events of the play gather force, we learn that the young girl is in fact fatally ill—a tragic destiny which her father, for all his erudition and experience, is helpless to understand or avert. TWELVE DREAMS is ultimately a meditation on love and loss, and the forces of life and fate.
A brilliantly resourceful exploration into the recesses of the human mind, and the dark forces which psychoanalytic theory can summon forth—often with disquieting results. "TWELVE DREAMS has haunted James Lapine for a long time. This extraordinary play was first presented in 1978…Now Lapine has returned again to the material, producing a richer, smarter and immensely moving meditation on the significance of dreams and, more important this time around, on the unique bond between father and child." —Variety. "TWELVE DREAMS…draws its inspiration from a case study of Carl Jung's in which a young girl's dreams apparently foretold her death. In a Lincoln Center revival, the haunting logic of dreams, fusing the seemingly arbitrary and the seemingly inevitable, wove an ever tightening web of enchantment." —Time Magazine.