”Fabulation or, the Re-Education of Undine,” a tragic comedy by Lynn Nottage, opened Wednesday at Florida A&M’s Essential Theatre with the message that anyone can lose their spot on the ladder of success.
Undine Barnes-Calles’ husband flees with all her money, which leaves her under investigation. She loses her high-paying job in public relations, and, to top it all off, she finds out she is pregnant.
According to the Stage Manager Melissa Hicks, “fabulation” means fantasy. In the play, it symbolizes how Undine made her life a fantasy and how she could only live in that dream world for a moment. An element of this is shown in her constant asides, moments where the real world freezes and Undine talks directly to the audience.
Played by theater performance student Chelsea Williams, Undine is left to venture back to her family home, located in a low-income Brooklyn community. There, she experiences several situations including being locked up, dating a recovered drug addict and fighting with social services, leaving the audience laughing at her pain.
Directed by Valencia Matthews, assistant dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, the production has ensemble members who act spontaneously throughout the piece. One moment that had the audience laughing constantly was when the moving men were taking Undine’s items away.
“The actions of some of the characters were hilarious. It was like reality to the extreme,” said Carrie Hilliard, a senior business administration student from Jacksonville, Fla.
Audience members occupied almost every seat as the cast of 16 played various characters, ranging from a drug dealer to a doctor.
Keith Oliver, 23, a senior theater performance student from Miami, portrays three characters throughout the play, and said believes the different characters help emphasize an important point about family.
“She had to get back in touch with her history, and this was done by displaying various characters in her life that did not help her,” said Oliver. “You can’t abandon your roots.”
Family issues, African spirituality, drugs, black bourgeoisie and relationships are all addressed in the satirical piece. “Fabulation” has the basic plot of a tragic hero who is brought down to learn a lesson, but Undine learns hers in an amusing way.
“Clearly, she didn’t learn everything she needed to know in college, so she had to be taught how to deal with life after failure,” Taniqua Carter, 18, a freshman pre-pharmacy student from Jacksonville, said.
While it was difficult to hear at times, partially due to laughter and lack of projection, there was not a lack of visual stimulation. Projections portrayed the location of each scene, bringing a new element to Essential Theatre.
“The set is very experimental, so people should be prepared to see something they’ve never seen before on stage,” said Ruben Arana-Downs.