Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is a hoot. Some of the time.

That’s the feeling I took away from Tuesday’s opening of “Wishful Drinking” at Berkeley Repertory Theater. During the almost two-hour, one-woman play, which details Fisher’s parents’ marriage, her own disastrous liaisons, her addiction to drugs and her battle with manic depression, I found myself alternately laughing out loud at Fisher’s acerbic reflections on her life, and daydreaming.

The play is marred by Fisher’s peculiar delivery style. First of all, I was surprised by her appearance. She came out on stage in a free flowing long black skirt and tunic, clearly much heavier than she used to be. Her voice was also different, which I found disconcerting. It was smoky and gravelly. She delivered some of her lines too casually, which ramped down whatever tension there was in the narrative. And she smokes clove cigarettes and sips Coke Zero constantly throughout the performance, which may be a technique to make it look like there is some action, but proves distracting.

Yet I really enjoyed myself. Fisher has lived her life bright in the Hollywood spotlight, with all its perks and perils. She has been at the top and the bottom, and she shares it all with the audience.

The evening was enhanced considerably by the presence of the people who figure so prominently in the play. Fisher’s parents, the crooner Eddie Fisher and the actress, Debbie Reynolds were there, although they were deliberately seated at opposite ends of the theater. The director George Lucas, who cast Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars, traipsed through the theater during intermission, followed by a posse of what looked to be young teenagers. Fisher pokes fun of Lucas’ stern, never changing countenance in the play, and he definitely looked movie-star don’t touch me formidable as he paraded around.

I was sitting in the balcony, just a few feet away from Eddie Fisher, who is in his 80s now, bound to a wheelchair, with thin hair. Fisher showed lots of pictures of her father during the show, from the days when he was married to Reynolds and then Elizabeth Taylor, to his succeeding marriages. Fisher is a charmer, according to his daughter, and you could still see that spark in the elderly gentleman who sipped white wine during the performance and caused his companion to laugh many times during intermission.

It’s clear that Fisher’s parents’ troubled marriage has scarred her deeply; growing up the daughter of Hollywood scandal is not easy. Yet Fisher is able to turn much of her pain into humor. My favorite bit of the play is when she diagrams her parents’ various romantic entanglements in order to determine whether her daughter, Billie, was related to her boyfriend, the grandson of Hollywood Producer Michael Todd and Elizabeth Taylor.

Fisher decided they were not related by blood, but were related by scandal.

1 comment:

bookfraud said...

carrie f. is definitely a total hoot. "postcards from the edge" is a riot, even if it's painful to read sometimes. it sounds like the play is similar. turning pain into comedy, like every funny person on this planet (except jerry seinfeld).

"although they were deliberately seated at opposite ends of the theater." now that made me laugh...