Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs is one of his most widely respected plays. Simon earned kudos for what many critics consider the best example of his efforts to combine his trademark humor with a level of drama and character introspection. Brighton Beach Memoirs was first produced at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles on December 10, 1982. It debuted on Broadway on March 27, 1983, at the Alvin Theatre. Like many of Simon's successes, Brighton Beach Memoirs enjoyed a lengthy run and financial success. The play won Simon the New York Drama Critics Circle Prize for Best Play.
Critics attributed much of the success of Brighton Beach Memoirs to Simon's newfound sophistication. Before this play, Simon had a long career of successful plays that were either comic or serious. His previous attempts to combine the two rarely impressed critics or audiences. Critics praised Brighton Beach for its deft characterizations and meaningful humor. Some attribute this to the fact that Simon knew his material well. Though not strictly autobiographical, Simon based the play on his memories of growing up in New York City in the years just before World War II. Despite the play's success, some critics found Brighton Beach Memoirs superficial, comparing it to a soap opera, albeit one with good jokes.
The success of Brighton Beach Memoirs led to two more plays featuring protagonist Eugene Jerome and his family, 1985's Biloxi Blues, which dealt with Eugene's armed service years, and 1986's Broadway Bound. Each of these plays received more positive reviews and contained more extensive autobiographical material than Brighton Beach Memoirs. With the success of this trilogy, Simon's reputation as a premiere American playwright was cemented.