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A 2009 production: "The Duke of Darby Lane"
written by Bob Huber and dedicated to Kathryn Huber
The story begins in the living room of Carl and Elaine Hammond, residents of a senior community in New Jersey - where they are meeting with members of their Condominium Association.
   

<< Elaine Hammond

Carl Hammond >>

 

A number of issues were discussed - which made Carl later remark privately to Elaine, that he wondered why he continue to be willing to do this! Between a medically suspicious salad from the last Condo Party and trying to solve the problem of loud noises from a residents hot water pipes - Carl had a problem staying calm!

 

When the meeting was finally over, and everyone had left, the Hammonds realized that there was a stranger sitting quietly in the back of the room.

The stranger introduced himself as Harvey J. Crumm, an attorney of a Boston Legal firm retained to locate the descendants of the Duke of Hofmeister. The Duke, recently deceased at age 93, was the sole proprieter of the Dukedom of Hofmeister, an independent country adjacent to Switzerland and Austria.

 

Mr. Crumm indicated that there was a good possibility that Carl Hammond was the last remaining descendant of the Duke of Hofmeister, and as such he may well be the leader of an independent country. A DNA swab was taken - much to Carl's annoyance - to be used to confirm or deny his presumed ancestry.

Later that day, Carl asked his lawyer, Bill Troy, to give an assessment as to whether or not this was real or just a scam. After consulting with the State Department, Mr. Troy determined that Mr. Crumm was in fact "on the level," as they were aware of what was taking place. "Yes, it appears that you are the new Duke of Hofmeister, your grace" Mr Troy said with a condescending bow, much to Carl's annoyance.

The following day, Mr. Crumm brought Herr and Frau von Schleswig to visit, the temporary conservators of the Dukedom since the Duke's recent death. They purposely dressed in their native clothing, and were obviously thrilled to meet the new "Duke" in person.

They explained that the Dukedom was about 2 square kilometers in size, and when asked how many people lived there, Frau von Schleswig replied: "TWO! Max und me!"

The main product produced in the Dukedom of Hofmeister was Cheese, and Goats were the main livestock. Later Carl received a request for an interview from a newspaper asking him to comment about the culture and raising of Goats!

 
 

The von Schleswigs had brought pictures to show their new "Duke" some of the Castles in the neighborhood, and explained the history of how castles were used years ago. After seeing photographs of many of the local castles, Carl and Elaine asked to see a picture of "their Castle." Frau von Schleswig produced a picture of the Castle of Hofmeister which was completely in ruins with goats (this one named "Dagmar") happily climbing the stones of the castle.

The first thing that Carl would have to do as the new Duke was to attempt to reconstruct the castle - a multimillion Euro project! His check from Mr. Crumm was only for $347.28 - hardly enough to embark on any restoration project! "Yet," said Frau von Schleswig, "the neighbors were complaining bitterly about the castle's bad looks. It's a sort of a 'there goes the neighborhood' problem in the area where we live."

 
 

The Hammonds say "farewell" to the von Schleswigs, who had to catch a plane back to the Dukedom right away in order to return and care for the goats.

Enter "Aunt Margaret" - Carl's aunt - who was ever the "expert" on Hammond Family History as well as being an Astrologer and Card Reader. Aunt Margaret warned Carl and Elaine that something was wrong in the cards about this newly found family history.

The next day, a representative of the US State Department, P.J. Wells, visited the Hammonds to assist Carl through the process of "getting his Green Card" and establishing what now appears to be a dual citizenship.

Carl was not happy about any of this, and sincerely wished that it had never happened. "What am I going to do now?!" he said to Elaine as he observed a Secret Service Man being posted in front of their home. P.J. Wells had explained that this was a normal precaution for a "Head of State."

 

Aunt Margaret continued to consult her cards, and kept shaking her head about the "gap" she had discovered. She could not explain what she had found.

But later that day Mr. Crumm returned with disturbing news. The DNA sample had not proven that Carl was in fact a blood relative of the late Duke.

This was when Aunt Margaret confided to Carl and Elaine that Carl's Great Grandfather had been adopted - the obvious explanation of why Carl's DNA was not a match, and the reason for the "gap" in her astrological calculations.

 

 

Though Carl could keep the $347.28 check - it was his inheritance - he could not inherit the Dukedom without being part of the blood line.

Mr Crumm was apologetic; but Carl was ecstatic!

The whole thing about a Dukedom was really more than Carl wanted to undertake in his retirement years, especially in view of the incredible cost of repairing the castle!

As the play ends, Elaine gets a call from a Condominium Association Member asking:

"Will the Duke of Darby Lane be able to do something soon about my noisy water pipes?"

 
Curtain Calls

 

<<Playright, Bob Huber
 

<< photo courtesy of the          Rossmoor News
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