Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 11, 2008

Wishful Drinking

Hartford Stage
through Aug. 17
By Bernadette Johnson

Carrie Fisher reels in her audience hook, line and zinger. What an entrance. To a star-studded backdrop a la “Star Wars”, Fisher showers the audience with handfuls of glitter as she belts out “Happy Days are Here Again” (yes, she can sing too) while fake tabloid headlines from the lives of her famous Hollywood icon parents, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, the not so happy days, stream behind her. Then comes the standard AA introduction “…and I’m an alcoholic.”

The audience feels almost guilty laughing as Fisher recounts the ordeal of waking up next to a corpse, her “gay, Republican drug-addict” friend who died in her bed. “Republicans contributed to his death,” she assures us and thus sets the no-holds-barred tone for the evening. Everyone and everything is fair game for her hilarious anecdotes, from her matinee idol parents, to George Lucas and his wardrobe theory (“There is no underwear in space”), to her famous Princess Leia honey-bun hair, to her first husband, Paul Simon, and finally to her own mental illness, drug dependency and ill-fated romances. Not even her “blue blood, white trash” Texan grandmother is immune.

Fisher, dressed mainly in black with a slight wardrobe variation in Act 2, paces the stage, frenetically at times, smokes clove cigarettes and constantly interacts with the audience, particularly patrons in front-row seats. She is the quintessential story teller and stand-up comic. A hilarious first act “Are they related?” segment titled “Hollywood Inbreeding 101” takes the form of a CSI-style photo board/flow chart of the generations, tracing Debbie’s and Eddie’s descendents through their marriage, breakup, subsequent marriages (multiple), their exes’ subsequent marriages and so forth.

For those in the audience who fall in Fisher’s generation, “Wishful Drinking” is a trip down Memory Lane, tabloid sensationalism plus all the juicy details, the inside scoop. Fisher‘s formula for comedy is “tragedy plus time.” She doesn’t lay blame, doesn’t offer excuses for herself or others, doesn’t provide any psychological insight. It is what it is. The “funny slant” is her key to survival. It’s not surprising that among her “Special Thanks” in the program she includes “all 12 of my shrinks.”