Confession may be good for the soul, but does it make for good theater?
Yes, indeed. Especially when the author and star is Carrie Fisher, daughter of showbiz royalty, "Star Wars" icon, manic-depressive, alcoholic and astute observer of the Hollywood scene.
Fisher is a raconteur in the best sense of the word. She knows how to tell a story. And "Wishful Drinking," her hilariously perceptive journey through a world of celebrity and self-destruction, is chock-full of funny, fascinating tales.
It helps that Fisher has enormous rapport with the audience at Broadway's Studio 54, where her autobiographical one-woman show opened Sunday.
Prowling the stage, the performer banters effortlessly with theatergoers, drawing them into her memories about what it was like to grow up as the offspring of film star Debbie Reynolds and '50s pop singer Eddie Fisher, who for a time were America's sweethearts _ a title that didn't last long after Eddie Fisher left Reynolds for the newly widowed Elizabeth Taylor.
The 52-year-old Carrie Fisher, who looks and sounds a bit like her perennially perky mother, is unsparing in her analysis of those scandal-plagued years. But, more important, she is equally tough in examining herself, a complicated woman trying to deal with demons of her own making.
Nevertheless, "Wishful Drinking" produces large laughs. Fisher's jaundiced view of the luxurious movieland lifestyle is priceless. She grew up in material splendor if not exactly emotional comfort. She takes us on a tour of her gilded childhood and her parents' various marriages, particularly her father's, which seemed to get more convoluted as the years went on.
One of the evening's more entertaining segments is entitled Hollywood 101, demonstrating the interlocking of many of these relationships, almost to the point, Fisher suggests, of inbreeding.
The seeds of Fisher's resentful family dealings can be found in the fame her mother and father enjoyed _ and thrived upon.
"My parents had this incredibly vital relationship with an audience, you know, like with muscle and blood," she explains. "This was the main competition that I had for their attention, an audience. You know who you are."
But then Fisher's own marriages also were of a volatile nature _ her union with singer-songwriter Paul Simon, of Simon and Garfunkel fame, and then with superagent Bryan Lourd, who left her for a man.
Fisher had her own brush with massive celebrity in the 1977 sci-fi fantasy classic "Star Wars," playing the movie's earnest heroine, Princess Leia, a young woman best known for her cinnamon-bun hairdo. And, yes, Fisher does don a Leia wig in "Wishful Drinking" for a few good chuckles.
Fisher seems to have made peace with the role _ and even with "Star Wars" director George Lucas, who, she says, provided her and co-stars Mark Hamill (who played Luke Skywalker) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo) "with enough fan mail and even a small merry band of stalkers keeping us entertained for the rest of our unnatural lives _ not to mention identities that will follow us to our respective graves like a vague, exotic smell."
"Wishful Drinking," which first began touring the country in 2006, may teeter on a bit too long. Director Tony Taccone could have snipped a bit here and there, particularly the "Star Wars" mentions, which seem to pop up persistently.
But no matter. If this is theater as therapy for its author, so be it. "Wishful Drinking" is as affecting as it is good fun, with humor helping its leading lady sort out all her problems on stage.
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