Theater: Comic Tearjerker

If the entire world turned into a bleak desert of melancholy, Neil Simon would be an oasis of laughter. His eye for the wryly amusing incongruities of life, his zingy one-line gag-ripostes, his ardently skilled desire to be entertaining—all these have made him the leading U.S. comic playwright for more than a decade. But like the clown with the yen to play Hamlet, Simon has had the urge, and been critically urged, to try his hand at more serious drama. The result is The Gingerbread Lady, a schizoid play in which the dramatist is so busy applying plasters of wit to...

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