KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post
Iconic American playwright Neil Simon died on August 26 at the age of 91. His publicist says he died around 1 a.m. from a bout with pneumonia in his home state of New York. Simon is famous for writing the plays The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and many more. In his lifetime he wrote more than thirty plays, and had four on Broadway at one point. Simon also wrote several films, including The Out of Towners with Jack Lemon. Simon received 16 Tony nominations and won for best play three times. He was nominated for four Oscars, and won a Pulitzer Prize for Lost in Yonkers.
Actors from Junior High to Broadway perform from his library of work each year, including right here in Kansas City where the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre is getting ready to open a production of The Odd Couple. The director and cast talk about the impact Simon continues to have on American culture long after he stopped putting a pen to paper. Rehearsal is underway for the show at The Warwick Theatre on Main St.
“The Odd Couple`s characters of Oscar and Felix they are the polar opposites,” said director, Bob Paisley. “One is extremely messy and slobby, The other one is a neat freak and he wants to keep things neat.”
The theatre company is weeks away from opening night, but now that show will have a deeper meaning after Simon’s passing. Paisley grew up reading and performing his plays.
“No one wrote with more honesty, and more straightforwardness than Neil Simon,” Paisley said. “His dialogue is crisp and clean, there`s not a lot of extra stuff to it, and still he can invoke these stories, and bring out reality in a way that no one else can.”
The cast says Simon’s work is something they are honored to bring to life.
“There’s a sparkle to his dialogue,” said actor Tony Beasley who is playing Felix Unger. “Like you just opened a bottle of champagne and it just pops, and it’s fresh, and it sparkles.”
“It’s funny. It’s guaranteed solid funny,” said actor Scott Cordes who is playing Oscar Madison. “The script is usually set up perfectly for you to succeed with you being hilarious.”
Not only is it funny and smart, but Paisley says it’s just part of American culture.
“I see that in all of his work that we have done whether it’s Lost in Yonkers, or The Odd Couple he has a place at the table when we talk about how you define the American experience,” Paisley said.
Beasley hopes Simon’s passing will inspire people to come out to the theatre. Even though Simon’s curtain is closed, the whole company says his work will inspire theatre kids, and goers, long after he’s gone.
“Mr. Simon deserves our respect,” Beasley said. “How incredible he is. How his legacy, and his work will go on for decades, and decades, and decades to come. I`m just blessed to be part of it in this moment.”
The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of The Odd Couple opens at The Warwick Theatre on September 13 and runs until the 23rd. To get tickets click here.