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07.30.08

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Phaedra

Photograph by Kevin Berne
Thanks, George: Fisher's role in 'Star Wars' movies was mixed blessing, as she reveals in one-woman show.

Carrie On

Carrie Fisher dishes about her own roller-coaster life in 'Wishful Drinking'

By Marianne Messina


THE FIRST THING that strikes you about Carrie Fisher in Wishful Drinking, her one-woman show at San Jose Repertory Theatre, is big personality, the kind of big that can step outside itself to poke fun. Where average Joan struggles to hide the elephants in her living room, Fisher invites an audience into her living room and proceeds to ride the elephants. Hair full of glitter, in a stretchy black comfort dress, Fisher kicks off her shoes and ambles over the stage. Sometimes she's utterly skippy, on a roll, going "ooh-ooh" as she works the crowd; other times she seems to be narrating a children's book: "Fate intervened and brought her this sociopath." Voice husky, enunciation clear and deliberate, Fisher brings sarcasm to new heights by delivering a tone that wildly belies her words, like when she says that she and her fellow Star Wars actors can thank George Lucas for "a merry band of stalkers."

Fisher and scenic/lighting/projection designer Alexander V. Nichols detail the humor with crafty production bits. A love seat on a cozy rug strewn with stuffed pillows creates the ambience of the Oprah-at-home special. Next to an armchair sits a table supporting her artillery of ingestibles—can of soda, glass of ice, ash tray for cigarettes Fisher assures us are clove. The disarming setting allows personal, sometimes morbid confidences to go down easily.

At the same time, this parlor ease is disturbed by a huge trapezoidal "window" on Carrie's life, basically a projection screen fragmented into skewed windowpanes. As she comes out singing "Happy Days Are Here Again" at the speed of Xanax, tabloid headlines glide across the panes: "Carrie Fisher Is Bovine and Unappealing." Throughout the show such images crown the humor. For example, after a buildup, Fisher points to the image she found of herself in an abnormal psychology textbook as poster child for bipolar disorder. In a segment entitled "Hollywood Inbreeding 101," a blackboard drops down, a smaller iteration of the trapezoidal window, and Fisher uses a shillelagh-sized pointer to narrate her amusingly entangled family tree.

Where the first half of the show exploits the Fisher family circus, the second half highlights her bipolar and alcoholic diagnoses. Here, some of the smoothness falls away as Fisher sits on the love seat with one leg stretched tensely in the air. Clearly in progress in terms of material she's digested enough to spit out as humor, it holds promise for future one-woman shows. What Fisher obviously does find comfortable is interacting with an audience. House lights come up and Fisher asks for questions, at home but ever alert. "That's not a question, that's a sneeze."

Happily, Fisher handles the audience gently, even when her most intimidating audience challenge—something about a princess Leia sex doll—has forced volunteerism into hiding, and she combs through the auditorium rows soliciting a volunteer. Fisher's ironic posture and her openness about everything from holding grudges to taking drugs offer a breath of fresh air from the stuffy, so-together social ideal. By the end of the show, Fisher also succeeds in divorcing herself from Princess Leia (whose picture, she claims, will accompany her obituary) because this Carrie Fisher is even more intriguing than an iconic galactic heroine.


  WISHFUL DRINKING, a San Jose Repertory presentation, plays Wednesday at 2 and 8pm, Thursday–Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 3 and 8pm at 101 Paseo de San Antonio. Tickets are $40–$60. (408.367.7255)


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