(Newser) – Playwright Neil Simon, a master of comedy whose laugh-filled hits such as The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, and his Brighton Beach trilogy dominated Broadway for decades, has died. He was 91, the AP reports. Simon died early Sunday of complications from pneumonia surrounded by family at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, says a longtime friend. In the second half of the 20th century, Simon was the American theater’s most successful and prolific playwrights, often chronicling middle-class issues and fears. Starting with Come Blow Your Horn in 1961, his list of credits is staggering. Simon’s stage successes included The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Sunshine Boys, Plaza Suite, Chapter Two, Sweet Charity, and Promises, Promises, but there were other plays and musicals, too, more than 30 in all.
Many of his plays were adapted into movies and one, The Odd Couple, even became a popular television series. He was the recipient of multiple awards including four Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize. Even before he launched his theater career, he made history as one of the famed stable of writers for comedian Sid Caesar that also included Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Carl Reiner. In a 1997 interview with the Washington Post, Simon reflected on his success: “I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards,” he said. “There’s no more money anyone can pay me that I need. … I have no reason to write another play except that I am alive and I like to do it.” The theater world mourned his death, with actor Josh Gad calling Simon “one of the primary influences on my life and career.” Playwright Kristoffer Diaz said simply: “This hurts.”
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