Life on the Edge
BY ROSALIND FRIEDMAN
WOW!!!! Happy Days are Here Again! Maybe!!! With colorful sparkle on her eye lids, a gun that shoots glittering Confetti, and her ebullient mom, Debbie Reynolds, on stage and in the house, Carrie Fisher, writer, actress, and television host, is bringing down the house at the Hartford Stage in her one woman show. This elegant production designed by Alexander V. Nichols will knock your socks off; it did hers, for most of the evening she is comfortably barefoot in black PJ’S and bathrobe. Directed by Tony Taccone, the red-headed Carrie bares not just her feet but her soul, taking the audience on a painfully funny or humorously painful journey through the 52 years of her life, which includes a bi-polar condition, drug addiction, alcoholism, two former husbands, one of whom was Paul Simon, the other Gay, a Gay male friend, who died next to her in her bed, and a daughter.
You may remember Carrie Fisher, when 31 years ago she played the lovely Princess Leia in the trilogy, Star Wars; her memories of that experience, working with the eccentric, monosyllabic George Lucas, modeling the bizarre wig she wore for the part, listing all the iconic dolls and figurines that have been made in her likeness—even a Pez dispenser ---are both hilarious and sad, as are all of her stories. Although she was only 105 pounds, immediately after winning the role, she was told to lose 10 pounds, and not to war a bra. You’ll have to see the show to find out WHY?!
Wishful Drinking is a poor title—I much prefer Life on the Edge, because Fisher is teetering between events that go from bad to worse. The heart of this story is her parents, performers Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher; known as America’s Sweethearts, their divorce when she was two, and subsequent marriages and divorces could make a normal girl insane, and it obviously did. In a wild display, Carrie Fisher posts a huge family tree that includes her stepfather, the shoe mogul, Harry Karl, who used up all of Debbie’s money, Elizabeth Taylor, who took Eddie Fisher away from Debbie after her husband Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash, and then threw him over for Richard Burton, and Marie, “THE BODY,” McDonald, Karl’s first wife and the mother of many children, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 42. Her best jokes are made about her absentee father, Eddie Fisher; one of his many wives was an Asian woman, who died, he now dates all of Chinatown. He’s had so many face lifts, she quips, he looks Chinese. Her brother, Todd, looking for a father-figure to talk to, she says, has become a born-again Christian.
Carrie tells us in the opening that she has just had electric shock treatments; when at the end, her mom joins her on stage in an emotional hug, these two survivors both seen to be holding on to each other for dear life. Wishful Drinking will play at the Hartford Stage through August 17.
This review originally aired on WMNR Fine Arts Radio.