I'll Have A Wishful Drinking, Please.

A review of "Wishful Drinking," a one-woman show performed by Carrie Fisher at Studio 54 in New York City.

About halfway through “Wishful Drinking” one begins to wonder for whom the show is intended.  Traditionally, theatre is performed to bring about an emotional response from the audience but “Wishful Drinking” balances that purpose with the needs of its creator and star.  The one-woman show is a vehicle for Carrie Fisher to take control of her demons by confronting them—in full view of an audience.    

“Wishful Drinking” is playing at Studio 54 with direction by Tony Taccone.  The show is based on Fisher’s 2008 memoir of the same name.  The production is an interactive experience that gives the audience insight into the highs and lows of Fisher’s life.  Initially, this type of experience can be daunting but Fisher and her production team makes the experience accessible. 

Fisher begins the show in silhouette behind a projected star field that encourages the audience to use Fisher’s experience in “Star Wars” to contextualize the woman behind the star field.  Fisher tells the audience that George Lucas owns her likeness and that she has been fashioned into a pez dispenser, shampoo, and a sex doll.  She also reveals that she did not wear undergarments with her Princess Leia costume because Lucas adamantly stated that they would not have been available in space. 

Fisher dons a wig that momentarily transforms her into the iconic Princess Leia but then proceeds to transcend that recognizable “Star Wars” persona.  She presents herself as a two-time ex-wife, a mother, an alcoholic, and a skilled writer. She acknowledges that her success as Princess Leia in “Star Wars” and her publicized difficulties with bipolar disorder have made her a caricature of herself and she uses the production, and her quick wit, as a means of regaining order. 

Fisher wants the audience to feel at home.  The set design contains warm and inviting colors.  The couch, chair, and vibrant rug make the audience members feel like they just happened to wander into Fisher’s living room.  This feeling is enhanced by the fact that she enters wearing pajamas, kicks off her shoes, and settles in with a nice cup of tea.  Despite the subject matter, the audience feels like they are having a chat with an old friend. 

The audience becomes an important tool Fisher’s quest for order.  Fisher’s relationship to an audience is the cause of most of her problems and could possibly be her salvation.  At one point in the show she tells us about her parents—singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds—and how their relationship with an audience complicated their relationship with her. Fisher enlists the help of an audience member to figure out her complex family tree when her daughter asks if a flirtation with a young man is permissible. She helps with Fisher’s lecture by reminding the audience who divorced, re-married, or just started dating again.  There are similar audience participation moments throughout the show.  When speaking of the death of a friend which occurred at her home she brings up the lights and encourages audience members to ask questions about the experience.  In the midst of the show she administers a questionnaire to the audience which will determine if they suffer from any mental disorders.  At the conclusion of the questionnaire she declares that if you haven’t raised your hand for any of the questions that you are living in denial. 

Fisher is aware of the fact that she is brazenly putting herself into the public eye that has caused so much havoc in her life.  She speaks openly about her struggles with bipolar disorder—she has taken control of her changes in mood by giving each their own name: Roy and Pam.  She also takes pride that her portrait is included in an abnormal psychology textbook but reveals that for years she wasn’t sure what picture they chose.  She then reveals that the picture is one of her as Leia, and she has an epiphany she is not ill—Leia is.  These moments of hilarity are entertaining but as an audience member you almost feel guilty for laughing

At the production’s end Fisher has played out her entire life as if she were an impartial observer.  This fact helps Fisher triumph over her difficulties.  Even if audience members can’t exactly relate, they are glad to have witnessed someone rise above their difficulties. 

“I say my weak things in a strong voice.” I raise my glass to you Ms. Fisher.   



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