SECOND world war ended; the fifth decade of the century was passing, and the sixth approached. The great flowering of creative vitality in the drama had not yet run its course. Its continuity was signalized by the return to the theater of Eugene O'Neill, and the almost simultaneous emergence of a young generation of playwrights whose work promised to carry forward the revolution which he had inaugurated.
O'Neill returned to the theater in 1946, thirty years after the production of his earliest one-act plays in Provincetown, thirteen years after the production of his last full-length play on Broadway. Once again, in The Iceman Cometh, he invited compassion for "all man's blundering unhappiness." But this long tragedy expressed no affirmation of life, no exaltation of the spirit; it was the most pessimistic and despairing of his plays. In a waterfront lodging house and bar on Manhattan's lower West Side are assembled a group of derelicts, to whom drunkenness and their few pathetic illusions offer the only refuge from the abject misery of their existence. There arrives their occasional patron and boon companion, Hickey, who astounds them by preaching a gospel of regeneration. He undermines the illusions of one after another, sending them out to