Brighton Beach Memoirs begins as the lights come up on Eugene Jerome playing outside the family home. A voice like that of a radio sports announcer can be heard as Eugene goes through the motions of a mock baseball game. He is dressed in knickers, a shirt and tie, a faded and torn sweater, Keds sneakers, and a blue baseball cap. The house is a wooden frame building in a lower-middle-class district of Brooklyn, New York. The time is about half past six in the evening. Inside the house, Kate Jerome is setting the table for the supper meal. Kate’s sister, Blanche Morton, is occupied at the sewing machine; Laurie Morton is reading a book on the sofa. The general condition of the interior of the house suggests that this is a family struggling financially.
The audience discovers early in act 1 that the Jeromes are a Jewish family trying to survive during the Depression years of the late 1930’s. Jack Jerome works hard to provide food, clothing, insurance, and a house for the two families. Blanche’s husband, Dave, died at the age of thirty-six, leaving her and her two daughters without any financial stability. The Mortons had to move in with Blanche’s sister’s family in order to survive. Laurie has a heart flutter which requires a doctor’s supervision. Blanche, while young and attractive, has resisted meeting other men since Dave’s death; thus, she and her daughters must depend on the kindness and generosity of others.
Nora Morton returns home from her weekly dance lesson with the news that Mr. Beckman, a Broadway producer, has asked her to audition for a dancing role in the soon-to-be-produced musical Abracadabra. Her desire to be in the musical conflicts with Blanche’s desire that she complete high school. This conflict heightens the stress that exists in the interpersonal relationship between mother and daughter. Further increasing the tension is Stanley Jerome’s revelation that he has been fired from his seventeen-dollar-a-week job unless he writes a letter of apology to his boss, Mr. Stroheim, for sweeping dirt on his shoes. When Jack arrives home from work the audience sees a fatigued and completely exhausted man carrying a heavy load of responsibility on his shoulders. In order to meet the needs of his family he works as a cloth cutter during the day and sells noisemakers at night. Jack’s news about the events surrounding his work day is dismal: The noisemaker business has gone bankrupt.
Around the supper table, family members attempt to pressure one another into revealing their various problems and concerns. No resolution to the issues is reached during the meal. In fact, it appears that everything is all the more confused by a lack of straightforward discussion among the individuals at the table.
After supper, Jack and Nora go for a walk to discuss Nora’s desire to audition for the musical. The tension between Blanche and Nora is strongly intensified when Jack tells Nora that she should stay in school. Nora explodes from a sense of deep frustration: She sees her chances of fame and success slipping away.
Eventually, Stanley confides in his father, telling him about the events at work at Mr. Stroheim’s. Once he is confident that his father respects his having stood up for his principles at work, Stanley resolves to apologize to Mr. Stroheim in order to keep his job. The act ends with Stanley...
(The entire section is 1385 words.)
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