By JOHN DeMERS
As most of the civilized (meaning tabloid-reading) world knows by now, Carrie Fisher is a mess. The daughter of “Hollywood sweethearts” Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Fisher emblazoned her image onto pop culture as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy and then largely disappeared into a maelstrom of drink, drugs and manic-depression. Now she’s back, at our own Hobby Center, telling us all about it. And we laugh.
Having performed the one-woman show called Wishful Drinking for several years now, Fisher is utterly at home in front of us and, seemingly, at home within her own life story. While smooth enough, and definitely scripted, the show takes time for audience questions and even calls somebody onstage for a funny bit, as a comedian might do at some down-on-its-heels mid-America resort. All the same, when she isn’t shaking her head and asking “Now where was I?”, Fisher is clearly in control of her material – whether it’s her childhood against the backdrop of her father’s leaving her mother to marry Elizabeth Taylor or her own on-again-off-again dating-marriage-dating with songwriter Paul Simon. (“If you ever get a chance to have Paul Simon write a song about you,” she deadpans, “I hope you’ll please say Yes.”
Despite being funny for nearly all of its two acts, the show does touch on serious issues. After all, being an alcoholic and a drug addict is serious, as is being a manic-depressive, as is being in rehab or being “invited” (as she puts it) to a mental hospital. Fisher has some intelligent and hard-won truths to share about these experiences, their causes and effects, demonstrating the investment of effort that comes via solitude and no small amount of therapy. The 50-something woman with a daughter and two ex-husbands who emerges here is not specifically religious but seems spiritual enough, seeing herself not only as part of an ongoing family saga but, in some way, part of the universe. And she offers us her thoughts in small enough doses that they never grate. At one point, Fisher refers to her show as “pandering” and “people-pleasing,” but Wishful Drinking is that only as a finished product, not as an ongoing process. And, as they say, only in a good way.
Wishful Drinking, naturally, includes dozens of smart, sarcastic bits about her turn as Princess Leia, including director George Lucas’ extravagant merchandising thereof. “George owns my image,” Fisher offers at one point, with the perfect timing of a Catskills comic. “Every time I look at myself in the mirror, I have to send him a few bucks.” And there is something of “name it and claim it” here as well, all delivered on a simple living room set with a large backdrop for projections of stills and videos from her life.
In the end, we see a lot of ourselves in Carrie Fisher, despite her upbringing among what she jokingly refers to as “simple people of the land” and her own quasi-ridiculous life writing us Postcards from the Edge (the title of her book that became a movie) ever since. Wishful Drinking is fun and funny, sad and a little bit wise. It makes the essential crossover for any work of popular art, from “talking about me” to “talking about us.”