Neil Simon; 1927–2018
August 29, 2018
Neil Simon, known for his legendary comedies The Sunshine Boys, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Odd Couple, and Barefoot in the Park, passed away on Sunday, August 26 due to complications with pneumonia. He was 91. The author of over thirty plays, Mr. Simon was a pillar in the Broadway scene for over sixty years.
As Mr. Simon’s career progressed from his breakthrough show, Barefoot in the Park (1963), he grew from a popular icon in theatre into a critical marvel as well. Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple (1965) established Mr. Simon as a widely popular playwright in his time, leading the writer’s plays to garner over 9,000 performances by 1980. This record surpasses every other American playwright.
Mr. Simon finally solidified himself as a critical heavyweight in the 1980s with the debuts of Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985), and Broadway Bound (1986). “These comedy-dramas were admired for the way they explored the tangle of love, anger, and desperation that bound together—and drove apart—a Jewish working-class family, wrote Charles Isherwood for The New York Times.
In 1991, Mr. Simon’s career culminated in a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his autobiographical comedy Lost in Yonkers. He called it “the most honest play I’ve ever written.” Bill Evans, publicist and friend to Mr. Simon, who also donated a kidney to the playwright in 2004, said “it was an honor to contribute” to someone of Simon’s status. “He made an imprint on the culture.”
Simon is survived by his wife, the actress Elaine Joyce Simon, whom he married in 1999, as well as two daughters, three grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
Photo Credit: Geffen Playhouse