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Theatre review: 'Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine' at the Lounge Theatre

June 10, 2010 |  8:30 pm
FABULATION - 1

Watching someone else’s comeuppance is such a pleasure: All the schadenfreude and moral uplift with none of the flop sweat. The rubbernecking is terrific in “Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine,” Lynn Nottage’s delicious satire of an uber-bitch turned welfare baby mama, now at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood. West Coast Ensemble’s down and dirty production may be rough around the edges, but it delivers the comic goods.

PR guru Undine (Adeye Sahran) is too busy booking celebrities for her Fallopian Blockage charity event to notice her husband, Herve (Carlos Acuña), has gone AWOL, leaving her penniless and knocked up. The Dartmouth-educated, overachieving buppie has no choice but to return to the projects and the family she claims died in a fire.  Upscale Undine must live out her pregnancy as her former self, Sharona Watkins, just another poor black woman in America. Let the life lessons begin.

Nottage, who penned “Intimate Apparel,” a delicate study of forbidden love in 1905, and last year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Ruined,” lets her hair down here to highly entertaining effect. Writing in sketch style brings out her comic edge (“There is nothing less forgiving than bougey Negroes”), generating priceless moments like Undine’s first purchase of street drugs. “My entire life,” she deadpans to the audience, “has been engineered to avoid this very moment.”

Sure, this picaresque comedy occasionally suffers from underwritten characters or easy targets. But director Ben Campbell’s ebullient cast is having too much fun to care. Ace Gibson storms through his scenes as Undine’s ex-rapper beau, Mo’Dough, and later as her brother Flow, whose magnum opus deconstructing Br’er Rabbit is one of the play’s running jokes. Lyn Michele Ross nicely underplays her roles as an inmate and addict. And you can almost smell the overpriced cologne on Acuña’s unctuous Herve.

But “Fabulation” is ultimately driven by a winning, full-throttle performance by Sahran, who nails the play’s extremes of satire and heartbreak. We root for Undine even as we see how Sharona’s narcissism and rage have corroded her humanity. Everyone works off a cover story. The trick is to never to believe your own.

-Charlotte Stoudt

“Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine” The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Ends June 13. $18-$20. Contact: (800) 595-4TIX or www.westcoastensemble.org. Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: Ed Baccari, from left, Ace Gibson, Adeye Sahran, Lyn Michele Ross, DeJon Mayes, Carlos Acuña and Regina Randolph in "Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine," now playing at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood. Credit: Carla Barnett.

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