Brighton Beach Memoirs is a comedy about a Jewish working-class family living in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. The first act begins at 6:30 p.m. in September, 1937, the second at 6:30 p.m. a week later. There is a single setting, the home of the Jerome family in Brighton Beach. The action moves from room to room, however, and even just outside the front door.
In the first act, Neil Simon establishes the problems that his characters are facing, as shown not only in dialogue and action but also in Eugene Jerome’s asides. Eugene’s function in the play is twofold. He is the protagonist, a teenager preoccupied with his own problems, and he is also an observer, making notes from which he will eventually write this play. One of the story lines deals with the Jerome family as an entity, about to break apart because of financial pressure and personal differences; the other focuses on Eugene, who sees himself as the family scapegoat but is even more disturbed about the onset of puberty.
The tension in the Jerome household is evident from the moment that the curtain rises. The small home is overcrowded, containing not only Jack and Kate Jerome and their sons, Stanley and Eugene, but also Kate’s widowed sister, Blanche Morton, and her two children, Nora and Laurie. Blanche earns some money through sewing, and Stanley turns over his wages to his parents, but it is Jack who...
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