Although it is hardly documentary in method, Streamers has a "slice of life" quality to it. Like life, it does not seem shaped to fit the needs of a dominate theme, and it lacks the clear causality of the typical thesis play in the realistic tradition. Its characters, largely anti-heroic, do not line up on some side of an ethical dilemma. In fact, there is no central figure, no consistent protagonist. It is impossible to say exactly whose play it is, although it is clear that Carlyle comes closest to serving as the dominant plot driver.
Naturalism tends to examine life clinically, particularly life in its lowest forms. It comes closer to replicating life rather than merely imitating it. While Rabe's play is not about society's dregs, it does unmask some unsavory qualities in fairly average people, the savage and crude needs of Carlyle, for example. No "polite" restraints bar its honest portrayal of its characters' needs, no matter how seamy. Nor is there any restraint on their vulgarity.