All you need to know about Wishful Drinking is that Carrie Fisher, its writer and sole performer, is very funny and upfront about everything. She will say absolutely anything. If you have a problem with that, you will have a problem with every bit of information Carrie Fisher manages to make amusing. If you don’t want to hear about mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, or the sex and love lives of the rich and famous in clinical and sometimes profane language, don’t go.
Oh, hell, get over yourself and go anyway.
Fisher sits or scampers about a living room set—there’s a smidge too much self-conscious scampering for my taste—and regales the audience with tales that track a troubled childhood with Hollywood parents (singer Eddie Fisher, actor Debbie Reynolds) all the way to her own iconic celebrity status (priceless stuff about relentless Star Wars residue and director George Lucas), marriage (to Paul Simon) and struggles with substance abuse and losing her mind—a state she likens to “glowing in your own dark.”
If you didn’t know already, Fisher has a way with words. She’s eminently quotable and that’s pretty much what her show is meant to be: juicy, sometimes harrowing personal information lightly touched upon and wittily canned and delivered to your satisfaction. Her hilarious dissection of “Hollywood inbreeding,” a lecture complete with pointer and photo flow chart, will provide quips to share with friends for months to come. When Liz Taylor’s husband Michael Todd died, Carrie says her cheating father Eddie “flew to Elizabeth’s side, eventually making it around to the front. He consoled her with his penis.”
She can be off-the-cuff but mostly everything she says is written within an inch of its life. I could quibble about faux conversational glibness, but it wouldn’t change the fact that I laughed all night. Again, staged intimacy or no, this woman says things you’re happy to hear. You don’t have to know the people she’s talking about—she’ll take care of that—but it helps: Only a true follower of Tinseltown’s B-listers can offer the full, fantastic laugh owed to Fisher for referring to Connie Stevens, one of her father’s later wives, as “a tribute to Debbie Reynolds.”
Is the show just a collection of one-liners? No: There are two-liners as well, observations in which Fisher uses one joke as a set-up to a larger punchline. And Fisher’s self-mocking tone, particularly in regards to her “layered” performance as Princess Leia, demolishes any concerns about her taking herself too seriously (although her willingness to share, however flippantly, does contain a liberating little lift). A few lines about the ravages of bipolar depression are the deepest the show goes—and, to her credit, she describes that disorder better, and certainly funnier, than most doctors.
The evening seems stretched at two acts and an intermission. Director Tony Taccone did an adroit job keeping the show moving as naturally as possible but I wonder whether or not he tried to tell Fisher that less is more.
No matter. She’s good company.