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Fabulation or The Re-education of Undine | by Jeanne Powell

03/12/11 | by sidewalkstv | Categories: Local - San Francisco

“Fabulation or The Re-education of Undine” is now playing at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre (LHT) in San Francisco.

Follow up:

From Press Release:
January 13, 2011 San Francisco, CA — Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s 30th season will culminate in March with the Obie Award-winning Fabulation; or The Re-Education of Undine, by Lynn Nottage, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for her latest play, Ruined.

Undine Barnes Calles is a successful African American Public Relations maven at the top of her game.Her Gucci glasses and Louis Vuitton bag are all real enough, but Undine’s life is a fabrication. It all unravels when her Argentine husband embezzles all of her money and suddenly disappears, leaving her pregnant and penniless. Undine has no choice but to return to her childhood home in Brooklyn's Walt Whitman projects, where her journey of self-discovery truly begins. Undine’s working class to riches-and back-to-rags journey is a thought-provoking morality tale with a comic twist.

The role of Undine will be played by Bay Area favorite, Margo Hall, whose last work for Lorraine Hasberry Theatre was as director of the co-production, with The SF Playhouse, of The Story. The colorful characters who populate Undine’s world, from the luxury suites of Manhattan to the squalor of the projects, will be filled by LHT veterans, Michael Asberry, Halili Knox, Carla Punch, and David Skillman; as well as LHT newcomers, Daveed Diggs, Britney Frasier and Rudy Guerrero.

Helming the production will be the notable Bay Area writer and director Ellen Sebastian Chang, whose list of directing credits includes Bulrusher, Stateless; a hip-hop vaudeville, and Luxury Items. Choreography will be by Pampa Cortes, of Tango & More Argentine Dance.

Pictured: Margo Hall and Rudy Guerrero

Jeanne Powell's Thoughts:
“Fabulation or The Re-education of Undine” is the latest production to grace the stage of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre (LHT) in San Francisco. Opening night celebrated not only this wonderfully crafted and produced play, but also the LHT’s triumph over adversity during its 30th season.

While still without a permanent venue for its plays, the LHT continues to attract first-rate actors and other professionals. The theatre’s administrative staff now includes a new artistic director, Steven Anthony Jones.

“Fabulation” gives us the hilarious and poignant tale of an ambitious woman in the time-honored American tradition, driven to be successful without regard for much else. All that glitters is all that matters. Margo Hall is superb as the glamorous exec who is dressed to kill and who cuts down all who get in her way. Undine Barnes Calles may have believed that all thoughts may be forgiven of her who has perfect candor, to quote Walt Whitman. “Generosity is expensive,” Undine says. When prompting someone to get her surname right, she says it is pronounced like “callous.”

Behind the authentic Gucci glasses and Louis Vuitton handbag, Undine is dancing on eggshells. Her accountant did not attend to business and neither did she. To be pregnant and broke, with the FBI suddenly investigating you for fraud, is not part of a career executive’s game plan. And your society friends can’t afford to know you anymore. There are many sins which are acceptable in that life style; being broke is not one of them.

Margo Hall clearly loves the character she plays, from Undine’s stylish arrogance in Manhattan to the woeful moment when she drags herself back, all the way back, to her blue collar relatives in the Walt Whitman public housing projects of Brooklyn, where they remember her as “Sharona.” How did you find us, they ask Undine sarcastically, since you told the press we died in a fire years ago?

There are many funny moments, cleverly staged and wonderfully acted, as Undine gets back in touch with her Sharona. A little encounter with smack; fabrication as our heroine scams her way through drug rehab; an obscenely accurate confrontation with the Social Services bureaucracy; a developing awareness that childhood friends have gone beyond blue collar status without selling their souls; and a belated understanding that pregnancy does not ignore you just because you ignore it.

Margo Hall is assisted ably by Michael J. Asberry as Undine’s father, Daveed Diggs as her poetic brother Flow, Rudy Guerrero as her husband Herve, Carla Punch as her delightful grandmother, Halili Knox as her mother, Britney Frazier as her assistant Stephie, and David Skillman as her long-suffering accountant Richard.

Lynn Nottage wrote “Fabulation.” She also wrote “Ruined,” which won the Pulitzer Prize. Nottage has received a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur genius grant.

Ellen Sebastian Chang directs “Fabulation.” She is a successful playwright herself and is highly influenced by her love of and affinity with the movement, color and temperature of light and shadow. Assisting her are stage manager Bert van Aalsburg, assistant stage manager Maddy Boom and set designer Lisa Clark.

Walt Whitman said I celebrate myself, and sing myself. He also said I exist as I am, that is enough. Does Undine finally discover the simple brilliance of this perspective on life? You’ll have to see the play to find out.

“Fabulation” runs through March 27, 2011 at the Southside Theater in Fort Mason. For more information, please visit the Web site, http://LHTSF.ORG


Jeanne Powell is a poet and short story writer, who teaches in a summer program for teens. Her most recent books are "My Own Silence" and "Word Dancing," available online and through booksellers. She also hosts spoken word events in San Francisco, and covers cultural happenings for online media.


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