Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Neil Simon’s reputation has from his first effort, Come Blow Your Horn (pr. 1960, pb. 1961), been based on his ability to make audiences laugh. Camouflaged by the comedy, however, there is usually an idea worth deeper consideration.

In the years between his first play and Last of the Red Hot Lovers, this concern became increasingly apparent. For example, in Plaza Suite (pr. 1968, pb. 1969), one of the segments features Sam Nash, a middle-aged man who, unlike Barney Cashman, seems very satisfied with his life. In fact, he tells his wife of twenty-three years that he would like to “live it all again.” What he really means is that he would like to be young again, and in his futile attempt to avoid the inevitable, Sam is having an extramarital affair with his young secretary. He resists his wife’s plea not to leave her alone on the night of their wedding anniversary, and for the first time a Simon play ends unhappily.

The playwright cut twenty-five comic lines out of Last of the Red Hot Lovers before its Broadway opening and convinced at least some critics that he was serious about showing the human predicament in comic terms. Clive Barnes and Marilyn Stasio applauded the effort, and a reviewer for Time wrote:Behind the laughs lies Simon’s most serious play. In some peculiar way, comedy is no laughing matter. It is remarkably moral. It hopes to reform by ridicule. While it may seem like a...

(The entire section is 587 words.)