Comedy Playwright Neil Simon Dies


Neil Simon, the playwright behind comic hits including “The Odd Couple” and “Plaza Suite,” has died at 91. According to Bill Evans, Simon’s longtime friend and the Shubert Organization director of media relations, the playwright died early Sunday of complications from pneumonia in a Manhattan hospital.
Simon productions on Broadway included beloved plays such as “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple” and “The Sunshine Boys,” and the musicals “Sweet Charity,” “They’re Playing Our Song” and “Promises, Promises.”
In the 1980s, Simon enjoyed a career revival, and increased critical acclaim, with his semi-autobiographical “Eugene trilogy,” consisting of three plays focusing on a young man who grew up in New York City: “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound.” “Lost in Yonkers,” another coming-of-age tale, earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1991.
He also wrote numerous screenplays, some of them originals, some adaptations of his stage work. But he was best known as a playwright, both for his long string of Gotham shows as well as countless productions by regional and amateur theater companies, which helped him become the most-performed playwright of his era.
Simon once said that he was a disciplined writer, sitting at a typewriter for eight hours and constantly banging on the keys even if he was writing gibberish, because he needed the regularity of constantly writing. Simon never much wandered from his roots. And even when his plays were geographically distant from his New York-Jewish background, the sensibility remained in the approach to comedy and the characters that inhabited his pieces. A Neil Simon comedy was as identifiable as the work of any other major American playwright, whether O’Neill, Williams or Philip Barry.


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