Carrie Fisher, daughter of crooner Eddie Fisher and screen legend Debbie Reynolds, humorously bears her wacky, wounded soul in her breezy 2009 one-woman play “Wishful Drinking,” a revealing look at her fractured childhood, rocky relationships and bouts with mental illness and drug addiction.
Presented at the Victoria Theatre by the Victoria’s Premier Health Partners Broadway Series, “Wishful Drinking,” smartly structured to entertain with a wink and a smile instead of morphing into a celebrity pity party of endless diatribes, immediately charms as if reconnecting with an old friend. Best known for portraying Princess Leia of “Star Wars” lore, Fisher, 55, proves her worth as an engaging comedienne with naughty instincts who thrives on the playful interaction she generates with the audience in addition to her innate ability to simply poke fun at herself. Briefly schooled in London, the likable author/actress, who openly shares her disdain for Republicans and grew up in a house described as a cross between a government embassy and an air conditioner, bluntly addresses a wide array of dishy talking points ranging from her infamous tabloid history and forgettable stepfathers to her on again/off again romance with Paul Simon and deep affection for a gay talent agent who fathered her daughter.
Fisher, nicely framed within David Korins’ kooky hodgepodge set complete with R2-D2, could have carved her journey as a one-act, but her appealing personality and snappy one-liners (“distinguished-looking is ugly with money”) carry the momentum as topics change. There are no momentary lulls or an agitated feeling of rehashing, a sizable feat for any one-person play grounded in overtly familiar nostalgia. The most hilarious portion, arriving at the end of Act 1, predictably stems from memories of her breakthrough in a galaxy far, far away (her jabs at George Lucas and the oddity of having been merchandised are priceless), but I found her witty family tree dissection (a juicy rundown of divorces and remarriages dubbed Hollywood Inbreeding 101) to be an intriguing portal into her irreparably scarred past. Sure, Fisher has a field day joking about Eddie ditching Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor in addition to Eddie eventually marrying Connie Stevens (Debbie lite), but underneath is the harsh reality that the seeds of her commitment/relationship issues, emotional and psychological, derive from the undesirable examples she witnessed and endured first-hand. She actually fought with Simon on their honeymoon, which sounds alarming but was not entirely damaging. After all, she easily, if grudgingly, became Simon’s muse, inspiring some of his most introspective lyrics regarding love gone wrong.
In the mildly deeper Act 2, Fisher effectively shifts her puns toward rehab (Ozzy Osbourne was beside her at one point) and the acknowledgement of her personal demons. Although she drolly admits “there’s no need for demons when you’re self-possessed,” a glimmer of poignancy arises when she reveals the potential cost of losing one’s mind followed by a silent, heart-stopping mention of suicide.
“Wishful Drinking” is prime fodder for “Star Wars” devotees, but Fisher’s story of survival is intended for everyone. I’m actually surprised she hasn’t used this play as a launching pad to a talk show deal. Nonetheless, having been married, divorced and in rehab before the age of 30, Fisher certainly deserves to bask in the contentment she currently feels. It’s obvious her happy days are here.
“Wishful Drinking” continues through Sunday, April 22 at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Performances are Tuesday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Act One: 50 minutes; Act Two: 45 minutes. Tickets are $40-$83. The show contains adult language and themes. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com