created and performed by Carrie Fisher
directed by Tony Taccone
produced by Arena Stage
a Jonathan Reinis Production in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre
reviewed by Gary McMillan
Carrie Fisher has a subtly smoky, whiskey voice (more on the Brenda Vaccaro or Lauren Bacall end of the Whiskey Voice Scale spectrum than Elaine Stritch or Patricia Neal) and an infectious laugh. Her living room is open; have a seat in a comfy chair or on the sofa, lean back, and enjoy 1,001 tales as told by a truly great storyteller.
Unlike most everyone on the planet, I don’t immediately associate Fisher with the character Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga. As an actress, I think of her role in one of my favorite comedies, Soapdish, and her first film, Shampoo, and the zany (and resoundingly panned) Wizard of Oz take-off, Under the Rainbow. I am also a fan of her first three novels, Postcards from the Edge, Surrender the Pink and Delusions of Grandma.
Surprisingly, Fisher opens and closes her reminiscing monologue with a song. I hadn’t a clue she could sing – duh, consider the genes! – and I’m amazed that she hasn’t appeared in a Broadway or film musical in all these years. As with Postcards from the Edge, for which she also wrote the screenplay for the hit film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine, Wishful Drinking is unabashedly autobiographical. Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, is a sort of demi-Hollywood royalty herself. Not as well known as her illustrious parents, perhaps, nevertheless she grew up breathing the rarified air of celebrity. Kevin Bacon, move aside for a fast-paced game of five degrees of Carrie Fisher, for in fact the evening comes complete with a zany genealogy-inspired lecture as Fisher struggles to determine if her daughter is related to a prospective suitor, such are the confusions of celebrity couplings.
She’s weathered the polypharmacy years of drink and recreational drugs and popular painkillers, a passel of step-dads and step-moms, and a couple of failed marriages of her own. She’s come to terms with alcoholism and the pressures to become the poster girl for bipolar disorder. In the show’s publicity materials she remarks, “I always say, ‘If my life weren’t funny, it would just be true-and that’s unacceptable.’ So please come to see my show, otherwise I’ll end up talking to myself alone in the dark. Again!” In all likelihood, word of mouth will keep the theatre packed every night that she is here. It’s tempting to recount here her outlandish experiences, especially her audition for George Lucas and the aftermath of appearing in the Star Wars trilogy-one rarely considers the implications of merchandizing for the people involved. Do yourself a favor and hear it from her.
When: through Sept 28th. Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:30 pm; Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm. Sundays (Check schedule); matinees: Saturdays at 2.
Where: Arena Stage at Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street NW, Washington, DC
Tickets: $61 – $76. Available online