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The Breath of Life

Wishful Drinking

Carrie Fisher's solo show about her dizzying, dazzling, dysfunctional life is consistently entertaining.

By New York City
Carrie Fisher in Wishful Drinking
(© Joan Marcus)
Carrie Fisher in Wishful Drinking
(© Joan Marcus)
Carrie Fisher begins Wishful Drinking, her consistently entertaining stage memoir now at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54, by singing "Happy Days Are Here Again" in a voice stronger than either her mother, Debbie Reynolds, or her father, Eddie Fisher, ever had. She means the ditty ironically -- because the tale she's fixing to tell is not about a never-ending string of cloudless days at the beach.

Fortunately, whatever vices she no longer has, Fisher is still addicted to the temptation to be ironic on every aspect of the dazzling, dizzying, dysfunctional life she's led. As she paces back and forth on the stage in what looks like black pajamas and a sort of filmy wrap, Fisher waxes sardonic about such personal subjects as being the daughter of two celebrities, coping with her own stardom at age 19 and thereafter as Princess Leia in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, and about her marriage to -- and divorce from -- musician Paul Simon, among many other subjects.

Admirably, her consistent humor isn't simply built on the funny-now-but-not-so-funny-then chapters from her book of the same name. Still, as polished as the proceedings are, they lack some of the gravity that her book possesses -- especially in its discussion of Fisher's experience with electroconvulsive therapy.

Throughout, Fisher has an ability to use words like Play-Doh, manipulating them to her clever advantage. For example, on the subject of remarrying -- which she's seen a lot of going on around her -- she coins the term "the triumph of nostalgia over judgment." On the subject of substance abuse, she juggles Karl Marx's "Religion is the opiate of the masses" pronouncement to report she took "masses of opiates religiously."

There's no denying what Fisher is doing is a stand-up routine; but as directed by Tony Taccone and designed by Alexander V. Nichols, that aspect of its origin is craftily disguised. Projections, often involving movie excerpts, abound; things fall from the fly, such as a chart which she uses to explain family relationships like ties to her ex-stepmother Elizabeth Taylor and ex-stepfather Harry Karl. Further gussying up the enterprise, she works audience members into the act -- even to the extent of handing out drink vouchers.

Luckily, Fisher is such a cheerfully sober -- and sometimes subtly sobering -- host that a good time is had by all.


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