A play by American author Thornton Wilder, loosely based on James Joyce's uberepik Finnegans Wake and first performed in the tumultous year of 1941.
This play, like so many other succesful works of literature, works on two levels. First, it is the tale of a suburban family of father, mother, children and tempting, sexy maid trying to get their interpersonal conflicts settled out and weather the changes going on around them.
On the other hand, this family is an allegorical everyman struggling against the extinction of the human race, from the ice ages to the Flood to war, and always pulling through "by the skin of their teeth". Fairly early on in the story, it is revealed that the main characters are actually Adam, Eve, Lilit and Cain (Abel was accidentally killed several years before).
The shift between these two modes is rather surrealistic and some would say poorly done. The play opens with an ice age descending, and the family worrying if the father will come home to their New Jersey home from his work in New York City. Since he is busy working inventing both The Alphabet and the Wheel, it isn't explained exactly how he is catching a commuter train back home. The play continues making these surrealistic shifts, which could be seen as either funny or silly.
Overall, the play manages to make its point- that the human race is destined for greatness even in the midst of its turmoils. This was a point that was very well needed in the very uncertain year that it was released. Of course, every year since then has been uncertain, too, so its message is pretty universal.
Personally, this play was a junior high production at the Montessori school I was about to drop out of when I was sixteen years old. So in my mind, this play is very much about pettiness and junior high drama and how important those things can seem. Especially considering my personal relationships with the cast, it really brought the eternal love triangle of Adam, Eve and Lilith home to me. It wasn't until this year that I saw Neon Genesis Evangelion, and it wasn't until tonight that I made the connection between the two, that the idea of silly personal conflict mixed with cosmic space opera is not something that Hideaki Anno invented.