Neil Simon: Moore 'didn't learn the lines'
Playwright explains Moore's awkward departure from new play
By Thom Patterson
Mary Tyler Moore
(CNN) -- After a bitter exit by Mary Tyler Moore from Neil Simon's new off-Broadway play "Rose's Dilemma," Simon spoke Friday about the circumstances surrounding her replacement.
"The problem of Mary Tyler Moore in this is that she didn't learn the lines," Simon, 76, said.
"And she did the first three performances with a woman sitting in the front row calling out the line to her that she couldn't remember. And so you can't do that because it annoys everybody."
Moore's publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said the actress wouldn't take part in this "mudslinging" and issued the following statement:
"Mary Tyler Moore has too much respect for the process and those involved to engage in this discussion."
Moore, 66, star of the classic Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore television shows, was reported by The New York Times as being "devastated" and "completely debilitated" by the decision, according to Buxbaum. The Times reported that Moore was seen storming out of the back of the theater, minutes before a scheduled 2 p.m. performance on December 3.
The Times also published a statement it said was issued shortly afterward by Manhattan Theater Club, where the play is being performed.
"We are disappointed that the Neil Simon-Mary Tyler Moore collaboration did not work out," the statement said, "We respect enormously the talents of both Ms. Moore and Mr. Simon."
Simon commented on Moore's performance on the day the play was scheduled to be previewed by theater critics. Its official opening is December 18.
Simon said there were efforts prior to Moore leaving the play aimed at helping Moore remember her lines.
"Somebody brought up the idea of using a sort of an electronic speaker that goes into her ear, and they give her the line through that," Simon said. "Well, it comes out so false because the rhythm of it becomes wrong. The other actors don't know when to speak, because they don't know when she's going to get that line and say it.
"And so I wrote her a letter saying that I think it's not going to work and if she didn't learn the lines I said there's no more reason for me to hang around," said Simon. "I had written the play and that I would leave and go home. So she didn't show up the next day. And she was gone."
Moore's understudy, Patricia Hodges, was announced as the new lead in the play.
Simon said Hodges' performances after Moore's departure were "like a miracle happened."
"The understudy was incredible," he said.