Synopsis of the play
In May of 1899, in a small Greenwich
Village restaurant, Sue and Johnsy meet. They become friends and rent an
apartment together to share expenses.
In November, Johnsy becomes ill with
pneumonia. Her illness lingers. She becomes frail and loses hope of recovering.
Outside her window is an old ivy vine on which only a few leaves remain. Johnsy
has become so disheartened that she refuses to fight her way back to health and
convinces herself that when the last leaf falls off the vine, she will die.
It is the day of "house
calls" for doctors, and the doctor tells Sue that if Johnsy is to get well,
she must get her mind on something other than her sickness. Sue is worried; she
goes downstairs and reveals her fears to Mr. Behrman, a grizzled, unsuccessful
artist who dreams of one day painting a masterpiece. Only one leaf remains on
the vine now, and even Mr. Behrman is worried that tonight it will fall victim
to the wind and rain.
The next morning, when Sue and Johnsy
look out the window, the last leaf is still there. Johnsy thinks about her
situation and convinces herself that fate caused the leaf to stay on the vine so
that she would not die. With this change in attitude, Johnsy gradually gets
well. The doctor comes and verifies Johnsy's recovery. The doctor also tells Sue
that Mr. Behrman has pneumonia and is beyond help. He dies that same day.
Later that day, Sue discovers how Mr.
Behrman became ill. She tells Johnsy that on the stormy night when the last leaf
was about to fall, Mr. Behrman took a ladder, climbed the wall, and painted a
true masterpiece--a picture of the last leaf on the brick wall.