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Carrie Fisher's Family Dysfunction in 'Wishful Drinking'

The Huntington Theatre Company has recently opened two productions about families — Carrrie Fisher's one-woman show, "Wishful Drinking," on the main stage and Jose Rivera's "Boleros for the Disenchanted" at the Boston Center for the Arts. "Morning Edition" critic at large Ed Siegel has been to both and has this review.

ED SIEGEL: What would modern theater be without family dysfunction? The sins of the fathers, and mothers, have been falling on the heads of their children from August Strindberg to Carrie Fisher.

Yes, that Carrie Fisher, and she's here to tell you that being chained to Jabba the Hutt in a metallic bikini was the least of her problems.

And I'm here to tell you, I haven't laughed this hard in the theater since Mel Brooks brought "Springtime for Hitler" to life in the musical of "The Producers."

[excerpt from play]

That's Fisher singing "Happy Days Are Here Again" at the beginning of her show. As she sings, a series of headlines float by — her father, Eddie Fisher, leaving her mother, Debbie Reynolds, for Elizabeth Taylor Carrie Fisher's second husband leaving her for another man.

But, laughter is the best revenge, as they say. And as Fisher says, if they weren't great parents, at least they've been great material. Marital bliss didn't exactly run in the family, though Eddie did find one good woman, Betty Lin — a Chinese-American. Sadly, she passed away.

Fisher, in front of a board with photos of her very extended family, picks it up from there:

[excerpt from play]

As you can gather, this is no show for the easily offended.

Fisher also has a ton of fun with "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, for everything from turning her into a Pez dispenser to giving Princess Leia that "headphone" hairdo — which she makes an audience member wear, so you might not want to sit down front. He also made her go braless because, as he allegedly said with a straight face, "There's no underwear in outer space."

So, as you can see, "Wishful Drinking" is educational as well.

Now the other Huntington show, "Boleros for the Disenchanted," is a more traditional play. It starts out in Puerto Rico, playwright Jose Rivera's homeland. The play follows a young couple who leave there in the 50s to live in the U.S. The second act picks up 40 years later — they've become older and more despondent together.

It's a sweet and sour view of marriage. On the one hand, the optimistic couple have turned into unhappy variations of the woman's parents. On the other, Rivera knows how to leaven their situation with dollops of sharp humor and nostalgic music. Here's Socorro Santiago as the woman's mother, talking about love.

Rivera balances a Hallmark TV--movie with something tougher and more insightful, but I was alternately bored and involved with the story. It is ultimately redemptive.

But you know, sometimes you just want theater to throw redemption to the winds and go for the jugular.

Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking" continues at the Huntington Theatre Company's main stage through October 26. Jose Rivera's "Boleros for the Disenchanted" is at the BCA's Calderwood Pavilion through November 15. Critic at large Ed Siegel reviews theater and the Arts for "Morning Edition."

This program aired on October 23, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

Ed Siegel Twitter Critic-At-Large
Now retired and contributing as a critic-at-large, Ed Siegel was the editor of The ARTery.

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