But it was in the 1939 play The Time of Your Life that 30-year-old Armenian-American author William Saroyan crystallized them into what is arguably (with a nod to Eugene O'Neill's more somber The Iceman Cometh) the quintessential American Bar Play.
With its motley panorama of vivid characters, raffish setting of a dockside San Francisco watering hole, and jangly Depression-era tone of rugged idealism, giddy hope and jaded despair, The Time of Your Life delighted its initial Broadway audiences.
Based on Landau's 2002 hit version of The Time of Your Life at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Seattle outing was a unique co-production of Steppenwolf, Seattle Rep (where the show played, to enthusiastic reviews, in February and March), and San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater (where it traveled next, and is running through April 22).
Yet what most distinguishes this interpretation of the Saroyan play is Landau's departure from the largely realistic treatment The Time of Your Life has received since its 1939 premiere--and her fidelity to the core theatricality in its bones.
That The Time of Your Life limped from rocky out-of-town try-outs onto Broadway to become a box-office winner, a Pulitzer Prize honoree and a theatrical triumph Saroyan would never duplicate in subsequent tries, says a lot about the play's irrepressible vitality.