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Fabulation Or, The Re-Education of Undine ~ Mosaic Theater Company

Jordan Wright
August 27, 2019 

Mosaic’s fifth season opens with two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage’s play Fabulation Or, The Re-Education of Undine.  Nottage draws from the notion of “Sankofa”, a West African concept that touches on a number of relatable themes – poverty, success, loss, love and hope.  Its central premise is revisiting the past to find what has been lost, in order to connect with the future.  Heady stuff that refutes the notion that you can never go home.

William Newman Jr and Felicia Curry – Photo credit Christopher Banks

Undine Barnes is arrogant and self-assured – a veritable bitch on wheels.  A queen boss who graduated Dartmouth and became a successful public relations entrepreneur.  In the process she ditched her hard-working, middle-class family living in the projects in Brooklyn (she tells everyone they died in a fire) and found her niche by marrying, Hervé, a suave Argentinian with oodles of unctuous cachet.  Unfortunately, the slick mountebank quickly obliterates her celebrity-centric business by running off with all her dough.

Felicia Curry and Carlos Saldaña – Photo credit Christopher Banks

At 37-years old and pregnant, Undine (née Shorona) must now find a way to start over.  Leaving her luxe Manhattan lifestyle, but not her bougie Vuitton handbag, she is forced to move back home.  Along the way ancient spirits parade the stage with drums and ancient calls and she meets a Harvard-educated, Yoruba priest, who works for cash and booze in exchange for advice.

Roz White, Felicia Curry, and Lauryn Simone – Photo credit Christopher Banks

They all weave in and out of Undine’s misadventures as she becomes reborn.  It is these ancient ceremonial interstices that ground the story and make it more profound than light comedy.  Because, though it would be classified as a comedy, it is more like Alice in Wonderland crossed with Cookie Lyon of Empire and anchored by ancient African mythology.

Aakhu TuahNera Freeman and Felicia Curry – Photo credit Christopher Banks

Nottage crafts unforgettable characters – a heroin-addicted granny, street-smart welfare mommas, a group therapy circle of ex-junkies, and a brother whose rap poetry centers on the “double-voiced” trickster figure of B’rer Rabbit from The Tales of Uncle Remus.  Thus, the “fabulation”.

Felicia Curry – Photo credit Christopher Banks

Famed actor Felicia Curry stars as Undine and she is positively incandescent.  It’s a tough role to go from angry black woman on top of the world to humbled and hopeful, educated woman navigating the mean streets.  But, once you see how seamlessly she handles that difficult transition, you can’t imagine any other woman in the lead.  Under the expert direction of Eric Ruffin, the cast not only thrives but carves out an ensemble that meshes beautifully.

Highly recommended.

With Aakhu TuahNera Freeman as Grandma/Doctor/Inmate, William Newman Jr. as Father/Yoruba Priest, Carlos Saldaña as Hervé/Guy, Lauryn Simone as Stephie/Counselor/Devora, Kevin E. Thorne II as Flow/Agent Duva, James Whelan as Accountant Richard and Roz White as Mother/Allison/Rosa.

Assistant Director Jared Smith, Set Design by Andrew Cohen, Lighting Design by John D. Alexander, Costume Design by Moyenda Kulemeka, and Sound Design by Cresent R. Haynes.

Through September 22nd at The Atlas Center for the Performing Arts – 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets and information call 202 399-7993 ext. 2 or visit www.MosaicTheater.org.

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