If nothing else, Carrie Fisher is the absolute master of the well-timed, withering “-ish.”
You know, the casual take-back, the offhand slight—as when, speaking of one of her father’s several post-Debbie Reynolds wives, the eternally recovering Princess Leia remarks, “Marie was an actress…-ish.”
She’s tried that one out at a cocktail party or three, Fisher has, and she’s fond enough of the trick to deploy it once or twice more in her unrepentantly wicked solo show, Wishful Drinking.
Sure, it’s basically a stroll down memory lane, but in Fisher’s neighborhood, that boulevard is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And given the tabloid-fodder detours her life has taken, retracing her wobbly steps—with the lady herself providing profane, pointed commentary, in the manner of some louche museum docent—turns out to be entertaining as all hell.
Fisher’s long been known as a sharp writer—those carefully selected “-ish” bombs are as judiciously dropped as any stand-up comic’s signature trope, and their detonations, like many another zinger as the night goes on, set the Lincoln Theater rocking with delighted laughter.
And the material her own history supplies is choice stuff. Movie-star mom! Ditched by pop-idol dad! For Liz Taylor! Plus global stardom at a tender age and a troubled marriage to another huge star! It could drive a person crazy—or at least to pills, booze, weed, and beyond, which is where Fisher goes, cheerfully and sardonically and with just enough eye-rolling to let you know she thinks it’s all a bit rococo, too.
For an evening in a 1,200-seat house, headlined by an actress whose face is instantly recognizable across the inhabited continents, it all feels surprisingly cozy, like you’ve dropped in for a visit with the slightly mad neighbor who used to get the good table at Spago. Alexander V. Nichols’ inviting sitting-room set helps, of course, but Fisher’s manner is most of the magic. She’ll drop a punch line with a kind of no-fuss casualness, perhaps while rummaging in her bag for a cigarette. “I was tempted to marry him, just so I could tell people how we’d met,” she says of the flirtatious ER doctor who once pumped her stomach. Or, about her tempestuous marriage to Paul Simon: “He wrote another song about me, called ‘Allergies.’”
The evening’s unquestioned high point is a merciless mock-genealogical excursion into the excesses of her parents’ marriages—Hollywood Inbreeding 101, Fisher calls the segment, which comes complete with a chalkboard flow chart.
But she saves her best jaundice for herself: “I was invited to go to a mental hospital” is how she introduces her struggle with bipolar disorder—a struggle that seems to have stripped away anything like self-pity, leaving behind something like an essential Carrie Fisher.
So wry is her way with an anecdote—and so low-key her sense of sturdy survivorhood—that you’ll almost feel slighted at not having made the list with her.