Brighton Beach Memoirs is a play about a fourteen-year-old boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York, during an era of comparative innocence, in the years just prior to the American involvement in World War II. Eugene wants to be a writer—or a baseball player, if he can play for “the Yankees, or the Cubs, or the Red Sox, or maybe possibly the Tigers.”
Neil Simon captures not only an era of innocence but also an age of innocence, as a young boy grows into manhood. The audience shares in those private moments that men go through as they reach puberty and pass on into manhood. Nora represents the glory of Eugene’s newfound interests. She symbolizes every man’s first love. “If I had my choice between a tryout with the Yankees and actually seeing her bare breasts for two and a half seconds, I would have some serious thinking to do.”
During the first act the audience listens in as Stanley and Eugene talk about such things as girls and masturbation. “There’s nothing wrong with it,” Stanley assures his brother. “Everybody does it. Especially at our age.” Later, in act 2, Stanley gives Eugene a postcard of a nude woman. In his memoirs Eugene writes, “October the second, six twenty-five p.m. A momentous moment in the life of I, Eugene Morris Jerome. I have seen the Golden Palace of the Himalayas . . . Puberty is over. Onward and upwards!” So ends the play.
In addition to the joy...
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Brighton Beach Memoirs is about the Jeromes, a Brooklyn family in the late Depression era (1937), and the financial difficulties they face when three relatives join the household. For three and one-half years, Kate Jerome’s sister Blanche Morton and Blanche’s two teenage daughters, Laurie and Nora, have lived with the middle-class Jeromes. Although the arrangement is basically amicable, new financial tensions culminate in hard words between Kate and Blanche. Fortunately, the argument teaches Blanche about independence, and the play ends happily, with Blanche making plans to move and with the two sisters closer than ever.
Brighton Beach Memoirs does not really focus on this story of sibling love, however; rather, it is what Simon calls his first “tapestry play.” In all of Simon’s previous plays, he focused on two or three characters and made the other characters peripheral. Here, there is a sense that each character’s story is told with similar emphasis.
Jack Jerome struggles to balance all of his familial roles, as husband, father, and surrogate parent for Laurie and Nora. Stanley Jerome, the eldest son, achieves adulthood by learning from his errors in judgment. Nora Morton, the eldest daughter, gives up illusions of easy fame and fortune as a Broadway showgirl, accepting a closer relationship with her mother and a more responsible familial role, while Laurie Morton, the sickly and highly pampered youngest daughter, will...
(The entire section is 604 words.)