Simon, (Marvin) Neil (Vol. 6)

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Simon, (Marvin) Neil 1927–

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Simon is one of the most popular playwrights in American theater history. To list his best known plays is simply to list his plays. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-22.)

It seems that Jewish family life, like that of other persuasions, is rich in humor and small tragedies. In [Come Blow Your Horn] the accent is on humor.

The leading character is a young man who cannot get along with his father. The father, panting to be a grandfather, at frequent intervals asks his son: "Are you married?" The son, a bachelor, must answer: "No." Summoning what remains of his paternal authority, the father declares: "Then, you're a bum."

It is not your reviewer's intention to discourage anyone's interest in the play. The quoted dialogue is really funny in the context of the story. Indeed, it is hilarious. Come Blow Your Horn is one of the most refreshing comedies currently on Broadway. You can take your country cousins to see it with the assurance that they will be neither embarrassed nor bored. (pp. 355-56)

Theophilus Lewis, in America (© America Press, 1961; all rights reserved), May 20, 1961.

"Barefoot in the Park," is the kind of popular stage piece Broadway is always feverishly searching for, without any clear notion of what its elements are or any ability to analyze them even when the work has made one of its annual or biennial appearances. It is enough to know that success is in the air. To be a hit means, on Broadway, to not be a flop; to be good means to not be thought bad; to be intelligent means to not be thought stupid. In this negative fashion the commercial theater organizes the life of its products and distributes its praise and blame….

Mr. Simon's little endeavor, it should scarcely be necessary to say, is as ephemeral as a theatrical offering is possible to be (how perpetually astonishing it is, thirty seconds after the last curtain call, not to be able to remember a single thing that has happened). But there is nothing wrong with this, once you adjust your values. If Broadway presented only plays of this kind—inoffensive, rather charming, adroitly directed and performed, corrupting nothing—there would be no reason to complain, since the street would then be doing exclusively what it does best and we would be entirely free to look elsewhere, as we now do fretfully in any case, for solid, permanent, light-spreading works of dramatic art. But of course a comedy like "Barefoot in the Park" is extremely rare, and perhaps the chief reason for its being rare is that it is indistinguishable in the Broadway mind from "The Marriage-Go-Round" and "Mary, Mary."

Mr. Simon's chief virtue is his ease. He has a minor comic imagination and is wise enough—or has been helped to be wise enough—not to force it too far, with the result that he lets his inconsequential fable about life among the newly-married take itself casually into moderately amusing, because relatively free and unprepared, situations, instead of tamping it all down into one central, dragooned situation where comedy becomes the self-congratulating recognition of the familiar. He allows his young couple to inhabit their sixth-floor post-honeymoon walkup with some unpredictability and personal edge; he brings in auxiliary characters not in order to advance a spurious narrative but to extend the area of humorous surprise and spontaneous invention; he throws away a great many lines which a more mechanical contriver of entertainments would hang onto for dear life. (p. 226)

Richard Gilman, in Commonweal (copyright © 1963 Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), November 15, 1963.

The Odd Couple … deals with the very real truth that our behavior is governed by an illogical need to exercise acquired self-centered compulsions, and that marriage is an infernal machine that permits two people to...

(The entire section contains 4859 words.)

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