Brighton Beach Memoirs

by Neil Simon

Start Free Trial

Act I Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Brighton Beach Memoirs opens in September, 1937, in the Jerome household. The Jeromes live in a lower middle class neighborhood in Brighton Beach, New York. It is about 6:30 in the evening and fourteen-year-old Eugene Morris Jerome is playing a semi-imaginary game of baseball outside. As his ball hits the house, Eugene's aunt, Blanche Morton, gets a headache. Eugene's mother Kate yells at her son to stop the game and come inside. Eugene reluctantly comes inside. He tells the audience that he wants to play professional baseball or be a writer. He is sent upstairs, and he begins writing in his journal.

Eugene tells the audience that his Aunt Blanche and his two cousins, Nora and Laurie, live with his family because Blanche's husband died of cancer six years ago. Eugene's father, Jack, has worked two jobs to support everyone for three and a half years. Eugene's writing is interrupted when Kate demands that he come down and set the table instead of Laurie. Laurie has a heart flutter, and Eugene complains that he has to do everything because of his cousin's illness.

As Eugene sets the table, sixteen-year-old Nora comes in and is very excited. She has been offered a chance to audition for a dancing role in a Broadway show. Nora says that the producer assured her that she would get the part if her mother gave her permission. Blanche hesitates because it would mean Nora would have to drop out of school, but Nora argues that she could support Blanche and Laurie if she took the job. Blanche can't make the decision, leaving it up to Jack when he returns.

Eugene's mother sends him to the store. Nora and Laurie talk in their room. They discuss their dead father and they resolve to spend no more money on anything so they can buy a house for their mother. When Eugene returns, his elder brother Stanley is waiting for him. Stanley tells Eugene that he was fired from his job for standing up for a coworker. To regain his position, he must apologize to his boss. Stanley wants to stand up for his principles, but the family desperately needs the money. Stanley decides to talk it over with his father.

A tired-looking Jack Jerome arrives home carrying several large boxes. They contain noise makers and party favors. Jack's second job was selling these items to hotels and nightclubs, but the business closed that day and he was left without employment. Jack worries about being able to support the large family. At the dinner table, everyone is tense. Jack suggests to Stan that he ask his boss for a raise. Laurie brings up Nora's offer, much to her chagrin. After dinner, Nora insists on talking about the audition with Jack, though her mother tries to prevent her. Jack offers his advice as they walk down to the beach.

Meanwhile, Stanley and Eugene talk in their room. Eugene describes an erotic dream he has had, and Stanley tells him it was a wet dream. Eugene presses him for information on puberty and girls, especially their cousin Nora, but Stanley's focus is on his employment problem. Kate and Blanche have a conversation downstairs. Kate tries to convince Blanche to come to a party that Jack's company is giving next week, but Blanche reveals that she has a date with Frank Murphy, a man who lives across the street with his mother. Nora and Jack return, and Nora presses her mother to make a decision. Blanche, like Jack, thinks Nora should finish high school. This angers Nora, and she storms upstairs.

Jack is growing more tired, and Kate wants him to come to bed. Stanley appears and asks to talk to his father. Stanley tells Jack what happened, and his father understands his dilemma. Stanley decides to write the letter and apologize. Stanley hires Eugene to write the letter in exchange for a detailed description of the time Stanley saw Nora naked in the shower.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Act II Summary