Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 770
Kate Jerome, who is about fifty years old and graying. She is the mother of Eugene and Stanley Jerome, the daughter of Ben Epstein, and the wife of Jack Jerome. After thirty-three years of marriage, she confronts Jack with his extramarital affair; they do not speak to each other afterward. Shortly after the radio broadcast of a show written by her sons, Kate shows her son Eugene how she once danced with George Raft. The next morning, she discovers that Jack has moved out to be with Audrey, the dying woman with whom he had an affair. Kate is silent at her discovery. Eugene states that Kate never does anything very exciting with the rest of her life, yet she never complains of sacrificing for others. She gave her love freely and rejoiced with the successes of her sons. After all, as Eugene explains at the end of the play, Kate had at one time danced with George Raft.
Eugene Morris Jerome
Eugene Morris Jerome, the twenty-three-year-old son of Kate and Jack Jerome, brother of Stanley Jerome, and grandson of Ben Epstein. Eugene works in the stockroom of a music room and writes comedy skits with his older brother. He is often the narrator of the play and is the cowriter of a CBS radio broadcast.
Stanley Jerome, Kate and Jack Jerome’s twenty-eight-year-old son and Eugene’s brother. Stanley, the manager of boys’ clothing at Abraham and Straus, joins with Eugene to form a comedy writing team. Stan decides that Eugene and he must move out when his father says that he will never forgive his sons for the broadcast, explains that the woman with whom he had an affair was a kind and decent woman, and says that he believes that he has lived out his welcome in his own home. After Stan negotiates a two-hundred-dollar-a-week deal for Eugene and himself with The Phil Silvers Show, the brothers finally are able to move into a place of their own. Stan and Eugene later are able to make peace with their father.
Ben Epstein, Kate’s seventy-seven-year-old father. Ben lives with Kate and her family. He is a dedicated socialist and, according to Stan, has not laughed since the stock market crash of 1929. He does not move to Florida with his wife in the beginning because he does not want to take money from his son-in-law and because he believes that Kate will need him because of her marital problems. Ben’s reaction to the radio broadcast written by his grandsons is that he does not hate it, which is a compliment coming from him. Ben tries to convince Jack not to leave Kate, but Jack leaves anyway. When Eugene and Stan move out, Ben explains that he sometimes had been joking with them when he appeared to be serious; he explains further that he believes that they knew he was pretending. The audience knows that Kate has adjusted to her husband’s departure when Eugene says later that the now seventy-eight-year-old Ben moved to Florida to be with his wife.
Jack Jerome, Kate’s fifty-five-year-old husband, who admits to having an affair. Jack believes that he recognizes his family in the radio broadcast his sons write and informs them that he will never forgive them. The morning after the broadcast, Jack moves out. He remains with Audrey (the other woman) until her death. Jack makes peace later with Eugene and Stanley, and two years later, he marries again.
Momma Epstein, Kate’s mother, who moves to Florida for her health. After the radio broadcast, she calls from Florida to say that she loved the program, recognized some of the characters, and yearns to hear from Ben.
Josie, Eugene’s girlfriend. She has been engaged to a Harvard student, and Eugene is able to win her love. Later, they marry, and Eugene professes great happiness.
Blanche Morton, Kate’s prosperous sister, who keeps Momma until Momma’s move to Florida. There is obvious tension between Kate and Blanche and between Ben and Blanche, which they sometimes seem to try to overcome. Blanche informs Ben (Poppa) that his wife (Momma) must move to Florida for health reasons and that Momma wants him to move with her.
Joe Pinotti, Stan’s friend who listens to the radio show written by Stan and Eugene. After the show, Joe calls Stan to say that he thought the show was better than Jack Benny. Like Jack Jerome and Momma Epstein, Joe believes that the characters resemble people he knows.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 82
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Johnson, Robert K. Neil Simon. Boston: Twayne, 1983.
Konas, Gary, ed. Neil Simon: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1997.
Koprince, Susan. Understanding Neil Simon. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002.
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Meryman, Richard. “When the Funniest Writer in America Tried to Be Serious.” Life 70 (May 7, 1971): 60-83.
Richards, David. “The Last of the Red Hot Playwrights.” The New York Times Magazine, February 17, 1991, 30-32, 36, 57, 64.
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