(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/26.)

Neil Simon, the playwright whose name was synonymous with Broadway comedy and commercial success in the theater for decades, and who helped redefine popular American humor with an emphasis on the frictions of urban living and the agonizing conflicts of family intimacy, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 91.

His death was announced by his publicist, Bill Evans.

Early in his career, Mr. Simon wrote for television greats, including Phil Silvers and Sid Caesar. Later he wrote for the movies, too. But it was as a playwright that he earned his lasting fame, with a long series of expertly tooled laugh machines that kept his name on Broadway marquees virtually nonstop throughout the late 1960s and ’70s.

Beginning with the breakthrough hits “Barefoot in the Park” (1963) and “The Odd Couple” (1965) and continuing with popular successes like “Plaza Suite” (1968), “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” (1971) and “The Sunshine Boys” (1974), Mr. Simon ruled Broadway when Broadway was still worth ruling.

From 1965 to 1980, plays and musicals written by Mr. Simon racked up more than 9,000 performances, a record not even remotely touched by any other playwright of the era. In 1966 alone, he had four Broadway shows running simultaneously.

He also owned a Broadway theater for a spell in the 1960s, the Eugene O’Neill, and in 1983 had a different Broadway theater named after him, a rare accolade for a living playwright.

(Read more)

Photo: Daily News

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