Some playwrights told the truth through tragedy, some through pathos, some through their family portrayals on the stage. Neil Simon did all of that with the sharpness and wit of comedy that got made it even more everlasting. And while we may remember the quips, the one-liners, and the scalpel-like humor, it was always to show us our humanity and human-ness. It was pure genius, and generations from now, when playwrights who seemed so much more important have faded from memory, Neil Simon will still be the one who made us laugh so we could truly see ourselves. What more could you want?
He was the Inge Festival honoree in 1997. He came to Independence and acknowledged the small-town Midwestern place with his typical humor: “Where can I get good bagels and lox?” He had breakfast at one of the little storefront restaurants and quipped about writing a new play. “Apple Tree Suite,” for the motel where he stayed during the festival. He was gracious, charming, and made us laugh at every turn. And when I think of writers that had an impact on both my writing and my outlook on life, he’s right up there with Lanford Wilson, Robert Anderson, William Inge, and John Steinbeck.