The revival of Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine, by Lynn Nottage – the first women to win two Pulitzer Prizes – takes on the reinvention of one’s self and the destruction it can cause. The definition of fabulation is to tell invented stories; create fables or stories filled with fantasy. In Nottage’s play, Undine (Cherise Boothe) does that and more.
Undine Barnes Calles (Cherise Boothe) is the “it” PR agent in New York. She is ruthless, cold, wields power like a knife, and is the person you go to for the party of the year. You want the top celebrity at your event, Undine is your girl. She has spent 14 years building her company, but thanks to her husband, Hervé (Ian Lassiter), she loses everything in the middle of a big event when her accountant (Dashiell Eaves) and the FBI arrive with horrendous news.
Overnight, Undine is poor and a pariah. Pregnant and with no choice, Undine returns to her roots in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, she killed them all off in a fire in the tabloids and they are none too thrilled. Her brother, Flow (Marcus Callender), is bitter of her abandonment. Her mother (Nikiya Mathis) and father (J. Bernard Calloway) are hurt at her rejection of them. And Grandma (Heather Alicia Simms) is hooked on smack, which ultimately saves Undine in the oddest of circumstances.
In order to truly survive, Undine must reconcile the past with the truth.
Undine is rather amusing as she breaks the fourth wall to let us know what is going on. The cast is exquisite as they play both real and caricatures of people we all know. Ian Lassiter is wonderful as her Latin husband Hervé who seduced her with a tango, wonderfully choreographer by Valeria Solomonoff. Lassiter then turns around to play the man who saves her. Nikiya Mathis also has some wonderful moneys as her mother, best friend, and a hooker who sheds some light. Cherise Boothe, however, is a star and despite the wonderful ensemble, we never take our eyes off her.
Lileana Blain-Cruz’s direction keeps things running smooth. Scenic designer Adam Rigg and lighting designer Yi Zhao have done wonders with this small space. Costume designer Montana Levi Blanco and hair & wig designer Cookie Jordan keep the characters distinct.
Lynn Nottage’s words ring true and with a hint of fun attached to the seriousness of what she is truly saying. Though Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine seems more like a sitcom, it is an entertaining night at the theatre.
Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine: Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd St., until Jan. 13, 2019