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Prolific playwright Neil Simon dead at 91

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Playwright Neil Simon, Creator of ‘The Odd Couple’ and ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ Dies at 91

At the end of his life, he was married to his fourth wife, Elaine Joyce, an actress to whom he was married in 1999.

He won Tony Awards for plays like The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues and Lost in Yonkers.

Simon served in the military and then worked with his older brother Danny on producing jokes for television and radio scripts. His plays included Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot in the Park, and, perhaps most famously, The Odd Couple.

He also wrote screenplays, among them After the Fox, The Out-of-Towners, The Heartbreak Kid, and Murder by Death. "Plaza Suite." "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers". Most were box office hits.

Actors and directors mourned Simon with online tributes.

In 1983, he had a Broadway theater named after him when the Alvin was rechristened the Neil Simon Theatre. He was a staple of amateur productions, earning him a fortune in royalties. There was delicious slapstick, to be sure: The poker players chasing after the disconsolate, newly divorced Felix to make sure he didn't harm himself.

Simon said he misjudged the work. "Lost in Yonkers" ran for 19 months (one of the longest runs of a nonmusical in the history of Chicago theater) and doubled its investors' money. "Laughter on the 23rd Floor".

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Evans said he gave Simon a kidney in 2004. "He was a titan".

His commercial success was not always accompanied by acclaim, with some critics discounting his plays as lighter fare and others saying that they steered away from weighty political and social issues. "The theater has lost a brilliantly amusing, unthinkably wonderful writer and even after all this time I feel I have lost a mentor, a father figure, a deep influence in my life and work". But what many people missed in Simon's gift was his singular understanding of the complex relationship between art and personal truth.

Much of his work centered on the everyday struggles of the middle-classes, which he used to explore what he called "domestic wars" and inter-family conflict. It was to have run in repertory with Simon's "Broadway Bound", which was also canceled.

"Barefoot in the Park", about a bickering couple inspired by his first marriage, and "The Odd Couple" that followed, were credited with capturing the zeitgeist of the 1960s. No single play was more influential on the genre that became widely known as situation comedy.

Simon was called "not just a show business success but an institution" by one NY critic.

He chronicled life as it was lived in the challenging mid-decades of the 20th century with the accuracy of the most careful but hardly uninvolved observer, especially celebrating the Jewish-American sense of humor and its capacity to push on through unimaginable suffering.

Simon had a rare stumble in the fall of 2009, when a Broadway revival of his "Brighton Beach Memoirs" closed abruptly after only nine performances because of poor ticket sales.

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