Home #Hwoodtimes Hal Linden and Sally Struthers Return to Glory in “The Journal of...

Hal Linden and Sally Struthers Return to Glory in “The Journal of Adam and Eve”

In the world premiere stage reading of Ed Weinberger’s new play at the Garry Marshall Theatre, two classic American actors returned to the stage to recreate biblical history.

By John Lavitt

Burbank, CA (The Hollywood Times) 01/25/2024

With four of his shows on Variety’s The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time (December 20, 2023), Ed Weinberger had one of the most extraordinary careers in television history. Beyond writing on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, he helped to co-create Taxi and The Cosby Show. Beyond many other honors, In 2000, he received The Writer’s Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award. Thus, it is not surprising that he is willing to follow in the legendary footsteps of Mark Twain and take on what is considered by many to be the greatest story of all time: the Creation Tale of Adam and Eve.

Ed Weinberger’s “The Journal of Adam and Eve” was presented to a packed house at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank for a limited run in January. Realizing that a full-scale production of his play was not quite feasible, the writer and producer chose to do a reading in the vein of J.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” and “The Vagina Monologues.” By selecting a reading format, Weinberger opened the door to get legendary actors to do his legendary play.

Hal Linden

After all, although they certainly are not spring chickens, Hal Linden (92) and Sally Struthers (76) are the very definition of television royalty. From 1975 to 1982, Hal Linden played the title character in one of the finest and funniest police sitcoms in television history: Barney Miller. The series opened the door for cop shows to be self-deprecating and comical, with many later successes being the progeny of this groundbreaking sitcom. Indeed, Barney Miller helped to bring out modern exasperation in a contemporary police department where the cops were human, fallible, and lovable.

Sally Struthers

From 1971 to 1979, Sally Struthers stood at the center of the American pop cultural zeitgeist as Archie Bunker’s liberal daughter in All In The Family. Mixing beauty and comedy, Sally Struthers proved to be a perfect foil for Rob Reiner’s Michael Stivic, her husband in the sitcom who was affectionately known as Meathead. Together, they did everything they could to enlighten the Bunker household without giving the conservative Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) a heart attack. In recent years, Sally Struthers has been respected as a strident activist, soliciting donations for ChildFund International.

Together, these two pop cultural legends took on the roles of Adam and Eve in Ed Weinberger’s reimagining of the creation myth, the early days in Eden, and the expulsion post-temptation. Asked why he decided to take on such a story, Weinberger explained:

“I’ve always been fascinated with the story of Adam and Eve. They’ve been blamed for so much: bringing into a previously perfect world Original Sin, pain in childbirth, and death. For centuries, various cultures – including our own – have used them to justify the right of men to rule over women. I thought it was about time for Adam and Eve to defend themselves… The Book of Genesis introduced Adam and Eve over 3,000 years ago, and as far as I know, the only writer since who explored their humanity was Mark Twain. So, if there’s a similarity between Twain’s couple and mine, it’s hardly coincidental. As far as Adam and Eve’s story being relevant in today’s America, I’ll leave that up to the audience to decide.”

Overall, the performance was enjoyable and funny. At times, rather than dive deeper into the root material, Weinberger chooses a modern take on the material. Indeed, his legacy as a sitcom writer sometimes overwhelms the material as he chooses jokes over meaning. At the same time, the humanity that Hal Linden and Sally Struthers give to the two mythic characters is impressive. In particular, the astonishment of Eve as she enters the world was fun to behold.

Perhaps the best part of the show is when Cain informs his parents that he accidentally hurt his brother. Never having experienced death before, Adam and Eve bring Abel back home, desperately wanting to save him. They hope he is just sleeping and will soon wake up. Eventually, they realize that Abel is not just resting and will never again open his eyes. Rather than condemn Cain, they believe his explanation of the events.

Weinberger allows his audience to empathize with the two parents. After all, they already have lost one son. How can they turn their backs on the other? Never having experienced death or violence before, they do not know what to do. Thus, they choose to side with love, which is beautiful and tragic. It is the kind of moment that should inform the rest of the storyline if Ed Weinberger decides to do a rewrite in the future. Such a moment raises the play past the low plane of humorous commentary and expands the monumental mythology. Indeed, it shows us for the first time a side of Adam and Eve we had never seen before.