Bipolar mood disorder is a devastating mental disease characterized by mood swings alternating between periods of depression and mania. Some of the symptoms include excessive alcohol and drug abuse, sadness, trouble concentrating, irritability, feelings of isolation, hopelessness, thoughts of suicide, loss of sexual drive, trouble sleeping, headaches and spending sprees.
This doesn’t sound like the basis for an extremely entertaining evening, but Carrie Fisher, who has been to hell and back more than once fighting this dreadful mental disorder, has managed, once more, to pull it together and create a one-woman show with all stops out and almost a laugh a minute.
Now who among us is not just a little fascinated by Hollywood gossip and might even sneak a look at the National Inquirer while standing in line at the supermarket? Fisher’s world premiere Wishful Drinking is 90 minutes of insider gossip that includes a look at her dysfunctional childhood beginning with her show biz icon parents, “America’s Sweethearts,” Debbie Reynolds and heartthrob crooner Eddie Fisher.
The evening begins with a series of newspaper and tabloid headlines chronicling her long road to and from addiction. What could have been painful to watch, was quite funny as Fisher stood in front of the flashing front-page headlines. Her living gossip column, or oral autobiography, branches out into her marriages – one husband “who forgot to tell me he’s gay” and Paul Simon, one of the major musical poets of the 60’s. “I’m glad I didn’t have children with Simon as they would have been so short, we wouldn’t see them until they were gone.” She cited one argument she and Simon had when she said, “Not only do I not like you, I don’t like you personally.”
The audience was treated to a hilarious guided tour through a flow chart that traced various liaisons, including Debbie and Eddie, Debbie and Harry Karl, Eddie and Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd and later on Richard Burton, etc.
With impeccable comic timing, she talks about her mother’s husbands who stole all her money, about her father “who is adorable and charming but shot speed for 13 years and then switched to cocaine.” Fisher said that she does not remember much about her childhood, but recalls, “We had three swimming pools in case two broke.” To this day when her mother calls her she says, “Hello dear, this is your mother, Debbie.” She also reminisces that Reynolds gave Fisher and her grandmother vibrators one Christmas with Fisher adding, “They made good stocking stuffers.” Having been a bit abused when she was a child, “Debbie bought a house for grandma so she could torture her at close range.” Grandma was an interesting character in Fisher’s life. Hailing from Texas, she had down-home expressions, such as, “A fly is as likely to land on shit as on pie.”
Written by Carrie Fisher, beautifully staged and directed by Joshua Ravetch, the fairytale set designed by Daniel Ionazzi, with hundreds of sparkling stars against a black background, is a perfect canvas for Fisher to paint her story. Gerald Sternbach at the Grand Piano provides the music for her occasional songs.
So, bravo to Carrie Fisher, our lovely Princess Leia, who not only has survived her own personal Star Wars, but has managed to create an impressive body of award-winning works.
Wishful Drinking, Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Westwood, runs through December 23, tickets are $35-$69, 310.208.5454.