The Gingerbread Lady

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The Gingerbread Lady
Written by Neil Simon
Date premiered 1970
Place premiered Plymouth Theatre
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting New York City

The Gingerbread Lady is a play by Neil Simon, written specifically for actress Maureen Stapleton,[1] who won both the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for her performance.


The Gingerbread Lady opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on December 13, 1970 and closed on May 29, 1971, after 193 performances and 12 previews. Directed by Robert Moore the cast featured, in addition to Maureen Stapleton, Betsy von Furstenberg (Toby Landau) Michael Lombard, (Jimmy Perry) and Charles Siebert (Lou Tanner).[2] It proved to be one of Simon's least successful plays on Broadway.

The play was produced by the Equity Library Theater (New York City) in 1987. [3]

Plot overview[edit]

A major departure from Simon's previous lighthearted plays, The Gingerbread Lady was a dark drama with comic overtones centering on Evy Meara, a cabaret singer whose career, marriage, and health all have been destroyed by alcohol. Having just completed a ten-week stint in a rehab facility to overcome her addiction, she returns home to the welcome of friends with their own problems - an overly vain woman who fears the loss of her looks and a homosexual actor in danger of losing a part in a play - her devoted but anxious teenaged daughter, and a worthless ex-lover. Evy's efforts at hosting a party crumble when she falls off the wagon and careens toward a tragic end.


In 1981, Simon adapted his play as a film with the title Only When I Laugh, starring his then-wife Marsha Mason in the lead role.[4]

According to Susan Fehrenbacher Koprince (associate Professor of English at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks), the film "is radically changed" from the play, and used "less than half" of the play. For example, the former nightclub singer Evy becomes Georgia, "a divorced actress who is battling alcoholism as she struggles to establish a closer relationship with her daughter." Georgia, unlike Evy, is not a nymphomaniac and is not as self-destructive. Koprince concludes that the optimistic ending for the flm is "more plausible" than the "tacked-on happy ending to the play".[5]


According to Thomas S. Hischak "Critics were mixed in their reaction, one stating that Simon's 'characteristic wit and humor are at their brilliant best, and his serious story of lost misfits can often be genuinely and deeply touching' but another noting that 'what is written is not serious but earnest.'" They "all lauded Stapleton's penetrating performance." The play ran "a disappointing five months, the shortest run yet for a Simon play." [6]


  1. ^ Fisher, James and Woronoff, Jon (ed). "Maureen Stapleton" Historical Dictionary of Contemporary American Theater, 1930–2010 (Volume I) (2011), The Scarecrow Press, Inc., ISBN 978-0-8108-5532-8, p. 758
  2. ^ Simon, Neil. Contents The Gingerbread Lady (1971), (, Samuel French, Inc., ISBN 978-0-573-60935-0, pp. ii-iv
  3. ^ Bruckner, D.J.R. (December 9, 1987). "Theater: 'The Gingerbread Lady'". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved August 27, 2016. 
  4. ^ " 'Only When I Laugh' listing" Internet Movie Database, accessed April 10, 2012
  5. ^ Koprince, Fehrenbacher Susan. "Chapter:Movie Adaptations of Simon's Plays" Understanding Neil Simon (2002), (, Univ of South Carolina, ISBN 1-57003-426-5, pp. 154–155
  6. ^ Hischak, Thomas S. "1970–1971" American Theatre: a Chronicle of Comedy and Drama 1969–2000 (2001), (, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-512347-6, p. 25

External links[edit]