The character of Eugene is an effective narrator for Brighton Beach Memoirs because he is young, likable, and perceptive. As a child, there are many things that he must learn about his family, including its history and the complex dynamics among the numerous members. His adolescent angst makes the audience—as former teenagers themselves—empathize with him, which in turn increases the likelihood of their engagement with the play. While Eugene’s insights stem partly from his personality, which is based on Neil Simon himself as a future writer, it is also believable that as an adolescent, as opposed to a younger child, would sometimes be capable of mature observations.
Specific features of Eugene’s character as an adolescent also contribute to the audience’s understanding of the family’s position during the Great Depression. He is on the cusp of assuming adult responsibilities, but does not face the decisions his older brother Stanley must make, much less shoulder the burdens his parents and aunt have. The family usually appreciates, but does not depend on, his contributions. His awareness of his status vis-à-vis other family members makes the Depression dilemmas come alive.
Negative aspects of relying on a combined narrator and character are basically those associated with first-person perspective: reliability. As everything is filtered through one individual, the audience cannot get past that person’s subjectivity and biases.