Undine Barnes Calles, a successful black woman who has fought her way to the top of her social echelon, lives a comfortable and busy life as the founder and president of a PR firm meant to cater to other African-American elite and nouveau riche. She specializes in non-profit benefits and finds deep satisfaction in her industrious success, until a divorce with more unsettling layers than expected sends her life whirling into splinters. Her Argentinian ex-husband, Hervé, disappears with almost every cent she possesses. Thrown into unexpected bankruptcy and poverty, Undine also discovers that she’s pregnant, and in desperation she returns to the family she has avoided for over a decade. Life in the projects where she grew up is hardly familiar territory anymore, and when she learns her grandmother has become addicted to heroin, a tragic mishap leaves Undine with a charge of drug possession and requirements to attend a group for recovering addicts. With the sky-high tower she built for herself in ruins at her feet, Undine is forced to come to terms with the self she abandoned so long ago in favor of notoriety and financial cushions. ‘Fabulation,’ Undine’s brother Flow’s word for the open-ended, work-in-progress epics he writes on the struggle of black existence, is the perfect word to illustrate this soaring arc of reckoning. Using many of Lynn Nottage’s common conventions, including narration by the main character that breaks the fourth wall, and multiple settings evoked through experimental staging and ensemble double-casting on almost all roles, Fabulation or, the Re-Education of Undine is both a fable and a satire. It converses on the celebration of identity and the singular struggle what black “success” looks like, while also exploring more universal themes of family and legacy. Lynn Nottage’s powerful storytelling skill gives Fabulation its remarkably unique and touching hyper-realism, and through the in-depth plot and diverse cast of characters, this social satire hits notes of relatable struggle to understand oneself as it masterfully delivers a comic but cautionary tale against giving up your true self to build an identity based on shame alone.
Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine guide sections