Although the play opened to rave reviews, and many critics considered it to be the major comedy hit of the season and the best play produced during World War II, Mister Roberts is the only play that Heggen and Logan produced. Heggen, the author of the novel on which the play is based, died in 1949.
Despite the fact that the play is classified as a war play, the war is not the major focus of the action: Only one member of the crew is actually involved in the war, and he only sees brief action at the end of the play. The play is more concerned with the simple but poignant human struggles as the crew battles restlessness and a sadistic Captain with decency, humanity, a sense of humor, and selflessness. At its conclusion, the characters reaffirm the importance of sacrifice in being truly human.