We gave it a B+
The biggest laugh in Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show Wishful Drinking doesn’t come from one of her tart one-liners — though there’s no shortage of quotable contenders — but from the projected image of a page from an abnormal-psych manual, in which she’s shown as a literal textbook example of bipolar disorder. Actually, it’s Princess Leia pictured as being manic-depressive — which might have something to do with those buns. Fisher cheerfully accepts the mentally ill designation, as well as some others: She interrupts her opening rendition of ”Happy Days Are Here Again” to give herself the standard AA ”…and I’m an alcoholic” introduction; later, she fulminates on the difference between ”alcoholic” and ”addict,” helpfully concluding that there is none.
Amid all that hyperawareness, though, there’s one self-diagnosis she may have missed: ADD. Or at least it seems possible, from the way she bounces from quickie anecdote to quickie anecdote without much regard for narrative-building or big, sustained points. Does that sound like a complaint? Didn’t mean it that way: Wishful Thinking happily avoids expending more than a comic line or two at a time on post-recovery life lessons. One local critic has carped that Fisher fails to deliver ”even that reliable catnip of recover show-and-tell, the Day I Hit Bottom confession,” and it is a bit of a surprise when Act 2 ends without a single major emotional epiphany or vomit story. But color us grateful that she covers the substance abuse years in biting shorthand. You’re not coming to this show in search of a schoolmarm, but rather the dream dinner host whose soiree invites kept getting lost in the mail until the postman finally delivered that Geffen Playhouse flyer.
Don’t come expecting The Carrie Hamilton Story, then, but do arrive expecting to be regaled with tidbits about first husband Paul Simon (who dryly replies ”Maybe not” after a semi-estranged Fisher tells him he’ll feel bad if her plane crashes), George Lucas (who informs her ”There are no bras in space”), ultimate bad dad Eddie Fisher (who ”consoled Elizabeth Taylor with his penis,” we learn in a finely detailed history of Hollywood affairs and divorces), and cameo players like Bob Dylan (who calls Fisher because he needs a co-writer — to help him name a fragrance he wants to develop). This is all rather sketchy, but Fisher is so gifted as both a standup comic and actress, and so good at segues between non sequiturs, that you may not not notice (or, more importantly, care) that her show is basically a drolly hysterical collection of unrelated short-short-short stories. It certainly begs a sequel or two: How can Fisher mention that she did coke with her dad as an offhanded aside rather than the full 10-minute recounting we require? But ”leave ’em wanting more” is a maxim she probably learned from her mom. Speaking of whom: Not too surprisingly, Fisher does the best Debbie Reynolds impression in the business, and for some of us old-Hollywood groupies, that’s almost recommendation enough. (Tickets: The Geffen Playhouse website or 310.208.5454)