rambling reporter

Fisher aims at Fisher in witty tell-all show

The witty Dorothy Parker once observed: "Wit is something which has truth in it. Wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words." It comes as no surprise that Carrie Fisher is a wit; she has been displaying it for years — in magazine pieces, interviews, sound bites, such books as "Postcards From the Edge" and "Delusions of Grandma" and on her saucy Oxygen show "Conversations From the Edge." But that wit has never been displayed quite as emphatically as in her one-woman show "Wishful Drinking," which has been holding forth since Nov. 15 on the West Coast at Westwood's Geffen Playhouse and (regretfully) ends Sunday. It's one of those rare theatrical treats you shouldn't miss — though at this point, latching on to a ticket won't be easy. (When I caught it, the theater was jammed, with a long line waiting in case of no-shows.) Written by Fisher, naturally, and devilishly performed by her, it is unabashedly funny, self-effacing and pure. It is Fisher doing what she does best, leaving no one in her circle unscathed but poking the wagging finger most adamantly at herself. She has, of course, enough material for a dozen confessional shows, beginning with her family tree (mother Debbie Reynolds, father Eddie Fisher, stepmother Elizabeth Taylor), which leads to a particularly delicious segment in which she stands at a board covered with photographs, pointer in hand, trying to explain the familial connections from dozens of marriages involved to decipher whether her daughter Billie is or isn't related to a grandson of Taylor, all underscored by choice Fisher quips. Then she has her "Star Wars" life to discuss, also Paul Simon (a husband), another husband who left her for a man, a friend who amid much publicity died in her bed, plus her days of wine, drugs and roses that made up the gist of "Postcards." She leaves no stone in her bizarre life unturned, doing so with sharp, biting, unending wit. Of her marriage to Simon, she quotes Mike Nichols, "Two flowers, no gardener." But it's her own observations that take center stage. About Simon, she comments, "If we had children, they would have been so short, they would have been 8 before we'd ever see them." One of the show's major assets is its lack of varnish; this is the equivalent of spending an impromptu, comfortable, hassle-free afternoon or evening with a friend who's in a tell-all mood, someone finding retrospective humor not only in the foibles of pals but, most emphatically, in their own cockeyed behavior. Fisher is one of a kind, so it might not be easy to find as bright and (that word again) witty a friend for that impromptu session as she is. Better to stick with the original, if you can find an available seat at the Geffen. … "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life," which began its national tour Dec. 19 in Cincinnati, opens today at Philly's Merriam Theatre for a week's run. … "Butley," starring Nathan Lane, ends its limited 14-week run Sunday at New York's Booth. It goes out with a bang, too, having recouped its $2.25 million capitalization during its first 10 weeks on Broadway.