In his critically acclaimed Rewrites, Neil Simon talked about his beginnings -- his early years of working in television, his first real love, his first play, his first brush with failure, and, most moving of all, his first great loss. Simon's same willingness to open his heart to the reader permeates The Play Goes On.
This second act takes the reader from the mid-1970s to the present, a period in which Simon wrote some of his most popular and critically acclaimed plays, including the Brighton Beach trilogy and Lost in Yonkers, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. Simon experienced enormous professional success during this time, but in his personal life he struggled to find that same sense of happiness and satisfaction. After the death of his first wife, he and his two young daughters left New York for Hollywood. There he remarried, and when that foundered he remarried again. Told with his characteristic humor and unflinching sense of irony, The Play Goes On is rich with stories of how Simon's art came to imitate his life.
Simon's forty-plus plays make up a body of work that is a long-running memoir in its own right, yet here, in a deeper and more personal book than his first volume, Simon offers a revealing look at an artist in crisis but still able and willing to laugh at himself.
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Despite its somber opening on the day in 1973 just after he buried his wife, Joan, this second volume of Neil Simon's memoirs is frequently as funny as his plays. The real estate agent who shows him and second wife Marsha Mason around Los Angeles reminds him so much of Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond, he remarks, "I immediately started looking around the car for the dead monkey." When he phones his brother and says, "Danny, I just won the Pulitzer Prize" (for Lost in Yonkers), Danny's response is, "Wait a second, I have to stop the water in my bath." If Simon harbored any malice, some of his wry barbs might really sting. Instead, he's gentlemanly and uncontrite about the failure of his marriage to Mason ("it takes two to untangle," he opines), and even more reticent about his relationship with wife number 3 who was also number 4, which didn't work out either time. Writing plays like Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound sparks more enthusiastic prose, and Simon's gushing about his three daughters is done in a manner so corny it's positively endearing. For a man who believes he became successful "by feeding off my own insecurities and sharing them with a world of people," Simon, at age 71, seems pretty well-adjusted. --Wendy SmithAbout the Author:
Neil Simon is the writer of more than forty Broadway plays, including Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, The Out-of-Towners, and Lost in Yonkers, which won the Pulitzer Prize.
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