Arts Listings

The Theater: Fisher’s ‘Wishful Drinking’ is Spectacle, if Not Exactly Theater

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday March 14, 2008

“The pure products of America go crazy,” intoned poet William Carlos Williams, and Carrie Fisher, a pure product of the American dream factory, who jests about the craziness of her life and icon status in her solo extravaganza, Wishful Drinking, is being held over at Berkeley Rep through April 12.  

She holds forth on the Roda Stage—holds court, at one point sitting demurely, but usually pacing, wound up with nervous energy, hands constantly in motion, tracing big patterns in the air. 

Wishful Drinking is something of an interactive show, as she “reaches out” to the audience, bringing spectators on stage or Carrie into the audience. On opening night, she directed causticly funny lines to (and at) George Lucas in an orchestra seat, and her parents, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, seated on opposite sides of the balcony, making sure they answered, even if tersely. 

Her schtick is all her own as the child of Hollywood “royalty,” center of attention since birth. She jokes about the incestuousness of her family, their many marriages, quipping that she hopes she doesn’t resemble one of the Hapsburgs, whose portrait is projected above the stage, features stricken with the grotesqueness of inbreeding. 

In a way, the show is beyond autobiography or memoir, as everything is cannibalized, including the cannibalism itself. Tragedy is part of the joke, and that—again—is the tragedy of a survivor who lives to tell the tale. Who lives for telling the tale. 

It isn’t Moby Dick, or even Oprah. From donning a Princess Leia wig, to confronting a Princess Leia sex statue dropped from the flies, to charting her extended family tree (Liz Taylor briefly as step-mother) on a blackboard lifted from a Mort Sahl outine, to the headlines projected in montage on the starry sky above her, the valiant attempts by Tony Taccone, the Rep’s artistic director, to flesh out Carrie’s exposition as theater just lends apparatus to an open-house-style chat. It’s not even stand-up, which the show has been compared to, as too many lines are thrown away, like an overheard cellphone conversation in a public place. Her relation to the audience does not carry the dynamic of engagement of the comic or the monologist. 

Her wit can crackle, or cackle a little hysterically, and there is no shortage of laughter as she charts the loopiness that is her normality. As a real-life twist on that old chestnut, the Poor Little Rich Kid, Carrie’s story is rife with funny vignettes and nuances that just never quite reach the level of actual humor. 

There is no form at all to the show, despite its gestures towards theatrical respectability (whatever that really is). But it is pure spectacle of a sort, with a little bit of the rawness of real and simulated reality that so much mass entertainment is striving to display. It’s all Carrie, transparent onstage, as if in a plastic bag—the type kids carry home from a fair, with a goldfish inside, ceaselessly opening and closing its mouth. 



Through March 30 at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St.  

$33-$69. 647-2949.