Neil Simon is one of the most successful and outstanding American playwrights and screenwriters of the modernity. One of the last representatives of the bright generation, who determined the face of modern American drama. A brilliant satirist (he began his career with Woody Allen), a master of dialogue and a subtle psychologist – all this is Neil Simon.
The secret of his rare popularity is the ability to combine a typical situation with the unique individual character of the person, which becomes a source of comic for him (Coates). The attitude of the public and critics to the Simon’s creativity is ambiguous: some admire his humor, skillfully reflected in his performances; others criticize for a slightly dramatically structured plot. Nevertheless, American critics called Simon Moliere of our time (Koprince). Writing comedies for the general public, Simon is uneffected by the influences of intellectual fashion. Due to his invaluable contribution to the development of the American theater, there was a theater in New York – the Neil Simon Theatre, named in his honor (Konas).
In my work, I would like to analyze main themes of the playwright’s works, the way how Simon’s creativity affects people and due to the result of what some events of his plays appeared.
Let us begin from The Odd Couple, the story by Neil Simon that is undoubtedly a superficial comedy. All people are different, but two friends Felix and Oscar are directly extreme opposites of each other: first one spends hours in cleaning up the house and every evening prepares dinner for several dishes, tries to please everyone and has a very vulnerable nature; another one likes a grubby bachelor does not pay attention to the strange smells that are born in his apartment, and does not want to bother himself with domestic issues. Settling these two individuals together in one apartment sounds risky enough, but in the situation of Felix and Oscar everything is aggravated by the fact that the first one is experiencing a heavy break with his wife, often whining and threatening to kill himself. No matter how charming Felix is, it soon becomes clear why his wife could not stand, now it remains only to wait, when Oscar will be finished by ultimate pedantry of his friend. The plot simply turns the heroes inside out, they test each other, bring each other up to insanity, entertaining the reader at the same time (Simon). The reader pities both of them, because of their extreme nature; they lose the most valuable treasure – their families. Everyone copes with it in his own way: Felix wants to commit suicide, because he does not imagine life without relatives, and Oscar pretends that everything is fine, and gradually he begins to believe it. In fact, they are both deeply unhappy and lonely and their joint living is the best that could happen to them. To my mind, in these characters, one can recognize himself or one of his friends or acquaintances, and the prototype of those heroes was someone from the author’s entourage. After all, many of us have traits of character and flaws, which simply leads others out of themselves. In my opinion, through his play, the author wanted to allow the audience to observe how difficult it could be for two people to get along and accept each other as they are.
One more interesting play by Simon is Fools. The author placed his heroes in a small town that can hardly be distinguished from the typical outback. Here live a doctor, a judge, a merchant and a shepherd. And all of them, unfortunately, are notorious fools (Simon). Simon’s characters recognize this fact without undue embarrassment, noting that they live quite well at the same time. The measured life of the townspeople is disturbed by the visiting teacher. At first glance, he falls in love with his apprentice Sophia – the daughter of a local healer. The resolute teacher decides, at whatever cost, to save the population from the three-hundred-year-old curse, which has turned every venerable citizen into a fool. This play was conceived as a kind of vengeance to Simon’s wife, whom he divorced at that time, because according to the terms of the divorce, the rights on the first production belonged to the former spouse of the author. However, later it turned out that the work of the playwright has undoubted success. The main theme of the play is the problem of inner conflict of the hero; he became a real fighter and the main victory for him is a victory over himself.
In conclusion I would like to mention that the plays of Neil Simon have influenced the lives of many people, as famous so ordinary; and I hope we will continue enjoying them for a long time.
- Coates, N. (2005). Why We Need Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers”. The English Journal, 95(1), pp. 23-28.
- Konas, G. (1997). Neil Simon: A Casebook. New York, NY: Garland Publishing Inc.
- Koprince, S. (2002) Understanding Neil Simon. Colambia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
- Shelley, P. (2000). Neil Simon on Screen: Adaptations and Original Scripts for Film and Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland&Company, Inc., Publishers
- Simon, N. (2016). Neil Simon’s Memoirs. New York, NY: Simon&Schuster.
- Walden, D. (1980). Neil Simon: Toward Act III. MELUS, 7(2), pp. 77-86.