Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Nick’s Pacific Street Saloon. San Francisco waterfront bar in which the entire play is set. The saloon is the kind of honky-tonk that Saroyan loved–a place in which drinkers can talk, play music, and dance, while hearing the blare of foghorns from the bay. Its furnishings include card tables, a marble game, a juke box, piano, small dance floor, and a long bar. A uniquely American place, the saloon has characteristics of a church–a place in which confessions are made and heard. It is also a stage on which talent is displayed in talk, by tap, and on the keyboard. It is microcosm of pure democracy in which Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy prevails–a place in which no one is the inferior of or superior of anyone else.
Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the rise of European fascism, and the beginning of a new world war, Nick’s Saloon is also a rehabilitation center, a meeting place, in which perceptions of difference can be transcended by a shared recognition of human value. As Saroyan himself noted, Nick’s is committed to the belief that life can be redemptive. Finally, Nick’s is a philosopher’s club; bartender Harry believes that the world is sorrowful and needs laughter, which he will provide. The power of Nick’s Saloon, in the script, on the stage, and in its screen adaptation, is that it possesses the delightful ambiguity of being both ordinary, like any neighborhood tavern, and also extraordinary, a special place in which life can be made whole.