New York City Theater
"Wishful Drinking" -
"The Lady With All the Answers"
Cherry Lane Theater
News Note: Two one-woman plays opened in New York recently. “Wishful Drinking” stars Carrie Fisher as Carrie Fisher and is directed by Tony Taccone, while “The Lady with All the Answers” stars Judith Ivey as Ann Landers and is directed by BJ Jones. Herewith an imaginary exchange of letters between the two women:
Dear Ann Landers:
My name is Carrie Fisher and I am a bipolar, alcoholic, drug-taking addict now spilling my guts in “Wishful Drinking,” the one-woman show I created. The esteemed critic from The Hour labels my evening “hilarious, insightful and surprisingly touching.”
Although there’s a horrible, mind-cracking pain beneath it all, my surface is filled with self-deprecation and honesty. That’s what makes it so palatable, so much more than a piece of gossip or schadenfreude. I figure that (to quote from my show) “if you can declare something, it has less power over you.”
But whom am I hurting, if anyone, with my disclosures? What is the morality, or immorality, of using family, friends and husbands to rid myself of private grief? After all, that’s what most writers do.
You see, I rake my parents over the coals, especially in a hysterical sequence called “Hollywood Inbreeding 101,” in which I point out the maze of courtships, marriages, infidelities and divorces that are an inescapable part of my life. I’m what happens when your whole life is surrounded by celebrities. Actually, I believe that “celebrity is obscurity biding its time.”
Of course you know about my parents: America’s sweethearts, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. My mom drives me bonkers at times, but at least she didn’t do as dad did when he went to “comfort” Elizabeth Taylor after her husband Mike Todd was killed in an air crash.
I was happy, for a time, with husband Paul Simon, though less so with many of the other men in my life. I know, people think my life has been charmed. After all, wasn’t I starring in the blockbusting “Star Wars” when I was just 19? Remember that wig with the earmuffs? (In the show, I joke lightly with the audience, even getting some accommodating gent to don a similar hair piece.)
I’ve had so many products named after me as Princes Leia: a doll, shampoo, a bubble-head, a Pez dispenser. I mean, “if you haven’t been merchandised for 30 years, you haven’t lived.”
In the show I give the appearance of spontaneity, and that’s what people respond to. Am I right that if you are able to laugh at your worst excesses, you’re going to save your life? I’m 53 now and, although I don’t like the word, I’m a survivor.
I begin and end my evening with “Happy Days Are Here Again.” I can only hope. Thanks for listening. Carrie
Dear Carrie Fisher,
I hear your mixture of pain and humor. Let me tell you, kid, you’re not the only one. You should read some of the letters I get, many of which I share with my audience. As I tell them, “I had no idea so many of you get your kicks by tying each other up.” In all fairness, when the letters get really hot, I consult experts. As I tell my readers, “You get their wisdom every morning with your cornflakes.”
I’m aware that my show, which was written by David Rambo, is milder and less insightful than your firecracker. But it’s warm and fuzzy, filled with advice and delivered with as much honesty and pizzazz as my wonderful interpreter, Judith Ivey, can muster.
I don’t have answers for everything, such as which way to place toilet paper on the spool. I had 15,000 letters on just that one subject. Then, I remember the time I was on TV with porn star Linda Lovelace. Now that’s a really funny story.
It’s not all frivolity. I warn about cancer and drunk driving, I counsel gay adolescents to be true to themselves. As I say, too, “I’m not afraid of criticism. The National Rifle Association, the anti-abortion people, the liquor and tobacco lobbies – those guys really despise me.”
My name is really Eppie Lederer. “Ann Landers” is the name of a column I took over when its originator died. My twin sister Pauline, whom I call Popo, also writes a column, Dear Abby. The less said about that the better.
Yet, I’m not without my own tsuris. There’s my marriage. After decades of advising couples to work things out, my own husband of 36 years has met somebody else. We’re getting a divorce. I have to be honest with my readers so the play’s frame is my struggling to write a column about my personal problems. It’s harder than advising the guy who’s in love with his pony.
We’re birds of a feather, Carrie. We both use what we know and face life with humor and good will. We’re both warm-hearted, realistic survivors. My show ends with the bittersweet “Misty.” All I can say is, “Chins up, dear.” Ann
David A. Rosenberg
Oct. 25, 2009