Chief Justice Michael Stailey is shooting for a Pez dispenser in his image.
A show where one woman reconciles herself to being Carrie Fisher.
One of the first events I attended, after moving to Los Angeles in the fall of 2006, was the inaugural staging of Carrie Fisher's one-woman show Wishful Drinking. The Geffen Theatre in LA's Westwood neighborhood is an intimate space, the perfect venue for such a soul-bearing performance. With little fanfare, Carrie situated herself on a sparsely decorated stage and began to open her life, warts and all, to a sold-out house of 400+ newfound friends. The resulting conversation was loose and engaging, raw and uncomfortable, and hilariously self-deprecating. Yes, there were moments where the evening dragged, leaving us wondering where all this was headed. But in the end, it was nothing more than sharing time with a woman we had all come to know as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Princess Leia, the ex-wife of singer/songwriter Paul Simon, a successful novelist and screenwriter, and an emotionally unstable, drug-addled celebrity mess. Which is exactly what Carrie was going for.
Fast forward to July 2010. After nearly four years of god-only-knows how many performances, in how many different cities, employing many different changes to the show, Carrie steps onto the stage of the South Orange New Jersey Performing Arts Center and does one for the masses. I wish I could say I was impressed. Unfortunately, the show seems as tired as she appears to be.
Theatre actors will be the first to tell you that it's impossible to always be "on." When you're doing eight shows a week on Broadway and people are paying $100 a ticket, you're expected to be just as fresh in performance #800 as you were on opening night. The truth is, we're human beings, and that can't always be the case. Maybe this was an off-night for Carrie. Maybe her health isn't what it was four years ago. Maybe she's no longer interested in telling the same stories the same way and is merely cashing a paycheck. I don't know.
What I do know is this performance of Wishful Drinking lacks the spark of the original. It's a slicker set, with a constantly changing digital backdrop and more toys for Carrie to futz with. Alternating between pacing back and forth or lounging on a leather couch and chair, we get a solid 70 minutes of her time and maybe 50 min of her attention. The running theme throughout the show is Carrie's relationship with her mother, but there's plenty of meat and gristle on the bones of her so-called life to chew on.
Two of Carrie's best stories…
"Hollywood Inbreeding 101"—What began with a simple blackboard back in 2006 has morphed into image map of Carrie's extended family. Listening to her explain in great detail the relationships, children, and insanity spawned from the marriage of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, is an absolute riot.
"George Lucas owns my likeness"—Journey to the dark side, where all manner of merchandising Princess Leia has taken on a bizarre life of its own. From the monologue that will not die and the infamous metal bikini, to the Pez dispenser and anatomically correct snatch, you won't believe the humiliation Carrie endures.
Nothing is sacred here, especially when it comes to the mistakes Carrie has made and the demons she continues to battle. Some people might find her candor off-putting, but if you've ever spent an evening with a Jewish grandmother, nothing here will surprise you. It's an interesting mix of highs and lows, some of which you'll connect with and others that will leave you cold. Regardless, you will respect Carrie for owning her crap, so that no one can hold any of it over or against her. That alone is a rarity in this business, and worth the price of admission.
Wishing Drinking is presented in 1.78:1 standard defintion widescreen. The image is what you would expect from an HBO concert presentation and it suits the subject matter. The same goes for the Dolby 5.1 audio mix. Carrie's delivery isn't always the clearest and there are no closed captioned subtitles, so you may find yourself rewinding now and again to catch bits of information.
Not much in the way of extras, at least from a value-add perspective. There are three brief stories trimmed for time that are referred to as "Deleted Scenes." And one hour-long discussion recorded with Debbie Reynolds at her home. I say discussion, because this is raw, unedited footage, some of which was intended to be used during Carrie's stage performance, but never made it into the act. To be honest, I found the whole thing a bit bizarre. The guy doing the interview is on par with one of TMZ's idiot cameramen who hang out at the airport hoping to catch an unsuspecting celeb, and Debbie doesn't exactly come across in the most flattering way. If that was the intent, so be it. If I were Carrie's producers, this would have been cleaned up and packaged in a manner more befitting of the show itself.
There are very few people on this planet willing to do what Carrie has done with Wishful Drinking. By the end of your time with her, you'll come away with more respect than you had going in, or have no interest in ever hearing from her again. Either way, she won't care. Carrie has more important things to concern herself with than whether or not you like her, and that just may be the lesson we're all meant to learn.
Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope. Right…
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