Written & Performed by
Oh those celebs. Their lives are fraught with strains the rest of us can hardly imagine or get enough of. The Enquirer, The Star, People and those other publications read eagerly in checkout lines and reception rooms for the crumbs of celebrities existences, accurate or not, attest to the fascination of millions with even the minutia of their lives. It is no shock that the life of Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, performer, and sought after Hollywood writer is rich with names you could dine out on forever. But would you care if everything that happened to her had happened to another middle-aged drab woman in an anonymous world, and not to Princess Leah?
You might care if the anonymous woman discussed her emotional abandonment in childhood, her revolving door experiences in rehab, her failed relationships, and her eventual bipolar diagnosis in language as tightly wrought as Fisher’s is, as illustrated by the title of her monologue, Wishful Drinking. But you might also tire of her endless backstabbing, though perhaps fully deserved, of almost everyone who has crossed her path and her seeming affection for the days of addiction, of mania, and the drama of it all.
The show opens on designer Daniel Ionazzi’s luscious evocation of a cocktail lounge, draped in luxurious black scattered with tiny lights, a skeletal tree hung with small mirrors to the left and, to the right, a piano (wine glass within her reach) occasionally played by Gerald Sternbach, a pianist whose credentials would put any lounge pianist to shame. From time to time a screen emerges at the back of the stage to reveal photos, mostly from Fisher’s childhood or of her as Princess Leah in Star Wars. Fisher uses these photos to good comic effect, augmented by a blackboard she wheels in to show the complicated Hollywood genealogy of her parents’ relationships and where she did or did not fit in.
Bookended by her wistful renditions of Happy Days Are Here Again, Fisher’s ninety minute confessional is at first dazzlingly clever only to become tedious and seem more like armor rather than a baring of her soul. It is hard to listen to and not ask, ‘do I really want all this intimate detail? Does she know no boundaries? Is she another alcoholic who believes that by embracing her addiction and finding everyone else in her life at fault she is absolved and should be adored?’ She does pay a passing nod to the havoc wreaked by her addictions upon friends and family, but the predominant theme is an affection for those times and the tone is self congratulatory. How would someone like her be able to establish mutual close relationships?
Perhaps the next step in her recovery should be to use her flint like wit, and her skill with language to explore characters outside herself. Surly a raconteur with her talent has other stories to tell, stories about what happens to other people. Then again, if you are a voyeur – and who is not from time to time - she does have the goods on those folks we love to spy on. Carrie Fisher not being the least of them.
Written and Performed by Carrie Fisher. Directed by Joshua Ravetch
November 7-December 23, 2006
Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles