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Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine

From 25 critic and 105 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Funny, Entertaining, Clever, Great writing

About the show

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage's satirical tale follows successful African-American publicist Undine, as she stumbles down the social ladder after her husband steals her hard-earned fortune. More…

Broke and now pregnant, Undine is forced to return to her childhood home in the Brooklyn projects, where she must face the challenges of the life she left behind. The first show of Nottage's Residency 1 at Signature, "Fabulation" is an exploration of how difficult it is to outrun where we come from. Obie Award-winner Lileana Blain-Cruz directs.

Front Row Center

"Nottage brings razor edged clarity to everything she writes, and undeniable truth. In ‘Fabulation’ she also has a gleam of fun in her eye. Despite the serious questions she raises, she also allows us to laugh without feeling guilty about it and imbues all of her characters with humanity and a saving grace or two. Cruz has done a masterful job staging this complex piece smoothly and elegantly.” Full Review

Carole Di Tosti

"Typical Nottage in its maverick brilliance and marvelous exploration of the complexities of black culture and identity. Essentially, with sardonic humor and LOL comedic fun, Nottage spirals out the larger-than life evolution, devolution and reaffirmation of the fabulous Undine...The production is a must-see...The director deserves much credit with the actors for breathing life into this enjoyable and shimmering comedy. The staging is excellent, the pacing never drops the humor." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"The episodic and escapadish manner of Undine’s un-fabulation is well handled by director Lileana Blain-Cruz...Yes, this return visit of Nottage’s early 'Fabulation' is worthy and highly enjoyable. The playwright’s unrestrained humor sparks the play with flashes of lightning; but by the time of 'Vera Stark,' she had developed the skill to display wild humor in a more sustained and controlled manner." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

“A consistently very, very funny play, but, like Nottage’s later works, it also faces such issues as race, gender, and class head-on...Nottage and...Blain-Cruz keep the belly laughs coming...Boothe is fabulous as Undine, beautifully handling her character’s fast fall from grace and her frantic desire to get back up again, if she possibly can ever face reality. The rest of the cast excels in multiple small roles that represent and challenge the notion of black stereotypes with humor." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Moments of true feeling, even of sentimentality, now and then intrude, but the play's overall tone is comedy bordering on farce, not something for which Nottage is known. Her 'Fabulation' characters sometimes suggest the caricatures in Tyler Perry movies, and many reviews point to the play's hilarity. If the humor were less cartoonish, I might have concurred with those assessments. Still, I did appreciate several sketch-like scenes…There's no disputing the excellence of Cherise Boothe." Full Review

New York Theater

"As the play progresses, and Undine regresses, 'Fabulation' turns into something more clever and pointed than just broad comedy. The playwright does no less than subvert common assumptions about the characters that populate her play...The playwright arranges for nearly every character whom Undine encounters to turn out to be not how they first appear." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"The play earns big laughs with its cheeky, audacious humor...Telling its picaresque fable via short, snappy episodic scenes, 'Fabulation' occasionally feels too sitcom-like in its approach. It's also overly reliant on narration. But the play is often very funny indeed, delivering sharp observations about social and racial identity that feel even more relevant today than when it was written...Most of all, it's the performers who truly sell the material." Full Review


“A hard-edged picaresque fable is what playwright Nottage came up with in her enjoyable ‘Fabulation’...Her comic sequences have a bracing tone and the dialogue has her customary skillful depth...Nottage gleefully depicts the shopworn situations through a solid episodic structure that predictably culminates in enlightened redemption...A lightweight fantasia dusted with a sheen of societal significance. Its high caliber theatricality puts it over as barbed entertainment.” Full Review

Theater News Online

"Above all, though, Undine is forced to wrestle with two even bigger obstacles: her mixed feelings about having the baby and allowing herself to love again. Boothe's stunningly multi-layered performance, in which she exposes Undine's toughness and fear in equal measure, helps us to root for what could come off, in other hands, as a very unsympathetic character." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“Boothe is triumphantly dynamic in the role of Undine...She stresses the comedy of the play more blatantly...and so does director Lileana Blain-Cruz...For all the laughter the play generates, this is basically a serious story...The play never loses the pizzazz of the staging, with its very busy and proficient cast members...The ending is in an entertaining and celebratory mode, showing that Undine’s journey of self-discovery has been successful." Full Review

Time Out New York

"On the surface, at least, Nottage’s 2004 satire of NYC's black bourgeoisie is a delectable treat. But it leaves a serious aftertaste...Lileana Blain-Cruz's whirlwind staging of 'Fabulation' puts humor first, helped by a versatile cast of seven with a knack for sketching broad new identities at the drop of a wig...You may be cackling too loudly to take it all in as it unfolds but, like a good fable, the play has a message that lingers past its scrappily-ever-after finale." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

“’Fabulation’ never lurches into miserabilism and remains consistently hilarious...But there’s no mistaking its central point about how easy it is to fall through the cracks of a society with a threadbare safety net. As Undine, Boothe anchors the play with uncommon wit and charisma while other actors playing two dozen supporting roles help spin a satisfyingly picaresque yarn. At once mordant and cheerful, ‘Fabulation’ is melodrama with a method to it.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Undine happens to be quite an astringent character, but in Cherise Boothe’s wry, spirited performance, she seems as deliciously dry as a martini. Seven other capable actors neatly portray an array of different people...Lileana Blain-Cruz confidently spins out Undine’s tribulations with a quick and easy hand. Living up to its mission, Signature Theatre nicely educates audiences about the lesser-known light side of Lynn Nottage’s artistry through this fine production." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"It was a razor-sharp satire in 2004, and it hasn’t lost its cutting edge today. 'Fabulation' is Lynn Nottage’s absurdist comedy about 'the vanity and confusion of the African-American nouveau rich'...It’s a tall topic to tackle, and Nottage does it fearlessly...Under Lileana Blain-Cruz’s slick direction, an agile ensemble of eight actors play over two dozen roles." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

“’Fabulation’ is more successful with its mordant social comedy than with its wispy romantic subplot, but director Lileana Blain-Cruz and a stellar cast find moment after moment that shines...Undine sometimes falters as a character...her gradual opening up to the aspiring fireman she meets in drug counseling doesn’t feel entirely earned...Still, the individual scenes are brilliant little comic snapshots. And the minor characters all spring to life with vividness and indelible performances.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"It is a solid and biting comedy that has far more layers of introspective deconstruction then what meets the eye...As directed with a flash for exaggerated humor and solid depth by the dynamic Lileana Blain-Cruz, 'Fabulation' finds its way delicately from affected, balancing stereotypes at every turn, to a place of fairly authentic sentimentality...It’s touching, enjoyable, and engaging but lacks a connection to our soul overall like her more mature plays." Full Review


"Splendidly staged and performed Nottage legacy production...Very broad satiric humor like this tends to overwhelm the underlying seriousness. But thanks to director Lileana Blain-Cruz, it all works quite well...If you leave your need for kitchen sink realism at the door, you'll enjoy seeing this cautionary play as much as Lynn Nottage must have enjoyed writing it. " Full Review


"It's fun and games for us, but at each punctuated point along this entertaining learning curve, Nottage tucks in glimpses of the generations-old baggage...While acknowledging the tragedy beneath the comedy, Nottage and director Blain-Cruz have plenty of fun...Might feel unsettlingly sloppy for those accustomed to Nottage's efficiently assembled dramatic work. And yet, there's something liberating about the play's blatant disregard for organization." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Nottage hasn't delivered a fully realized play, she at least provides a hair-raising title character to keep us amused...The best part of ‘Fabulation’ is how Nottage turns Undine's multiple tribulations into a series of sharp-edged comic sketches...This is also the play's limitation...when the play is unable to transcend its cartoonish structure...None of this really matters that much, thanks to Blain-Cruz's fast-moving direction and the cast of eight's incredible versatility." Full Review

The New York Times

"Brantley called it a ‘busy, robustly entertaining comedy’. It still is, but the world around it has changed so much that the comedy feels...less robust...Only as Undine’s enamel shell dissolves — Boothe is especially good at rendering the change — do we begin to enjoy her and the surrounding characters fully...'Fabulation,' and thus Blain-Cruz’s production, feel most accomplished the farther away they get from spoof and closer to reality. But reality invites uncomfortable questions." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Undine’s attempts to become a better human being are not completely convincing and the second act flounders a bit. Truth is Undine, with her droll asides, is much more entertaining company than Sharona. Ms. Boothe is excellent and is supported by a strong ensemble of seven...It is sporadically entertaining but the satire misses as often as it hits." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Seems like a minor work compared with later Nottage plays...The play moves swiftly, and there are...funny bits. Because, however, most of the characters are broadly drawn and the sketch-like scenes circle around a gag or punchline, the play does not pack the wallop one might expect. The play's poignancy and fable-like morals come through in narration rather than in the actions of and interactions among individual characters...The performances are top-notch." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“”Fabulation’ is a satire and social commentary on the concept of upward mobility by erasure of the past. As such, it veers from the farcical and absurd and into some deeply painful truths. Undine frequently breaks the fourth wall...Although this effect can feel jarring, it’s effective in portraying just how different Undine is from the person she once was...Although the circumstances of Undine’s life are tragic, Nottage allows Undine to aspire to something great." Full Review

The Wrap

"Nottage crafts a satirical, punchline-heavy riches-to-rags story that plays like the opening episodes to a network comedy — one that would not feel out of place following a Tyler Perry jam...Director Lileana Blain-Cruz keeps all of Nottage’s comic balls in the air, swiftly changing scenes as the eight-person cast take on multiple roles...In the end, though, 'Fabulation' feels both slight and abbreviated, like the pilot for a promising but canceled-too-soon series." Full Review


"Still, Boothe is excellent in the title role, sharp and cynical and commanding, hiding her vulnerability behind a veneer of bravado; her energy never flags as Undine slowly resettles into a life of modest sincerity. But ultimately the material is unambitious, making 'Fabulation' an enjoyable if somewhat unremarkable evening of theater." Full Review

Clever, Great acting, Entertaining, Delightful, Absorbing

See it if You want to be surprised, even shocked at the accuracy and drama that depictis how people change with their circumstances—survival triumphs

Don't see it if You want to live inside your stereotypes and are afraid of change

Clever, Funny

See it if you want to see a show which is laugh out loud funny while being socially conscious. Best play I've seen in awhile.

Don't see it if you have no sense of humor.

Relevant, Masterful, Great writing, Funny, Clever

See it if You want to experience a masterful production by one of America’s award winning playwrights. Great acting by lead actress and entire cast.

Don't see it if You are sensitive to profanity and turned off by contemporary music.

Also Not to be missed.

Refreshing, Intelligent, Hilarious, Great acting

See it if you enjoy witty plays about strong women in modern settings with some dark edges. You want to see a bravura performance by Cherise Boothe

Don't see it if you prefer either stark drama or frothy musicals. This falls somewhere in between.

Masterful, Relevant, Great staging, Great acting, Funny

See it if You like funny and thought provoking theater. Excellent acting. Brilliant writing

Don't see it if You don't like getting into the minds of others.

Edgy, Funny, Great writing, Great acting, Clever

See it if You enjoy smart, hilarious plays exploring social issues with piercing insights into the Black experience in New York City.

Don't see it if You avoid satirical plays that examine the absurdities of social issues and laugh all the way.

Great writing, Great acting, Entertaining, Clever, Absorbing

See it if The Black experiences in NYC.

Don't see it if You do not like comedies!

Resonant, Relevant, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You enjoy a play focused on social commentary. Sarcastic humor.

Don't see it if You want a light take me away experience.

Epic, Great acting, Edgy, Clever

See it if You like sharply written contemporary dialogue and Lynn Nottage plays

Don't see it if You're not in the mood for something that has a lot o drama. Audience can be loud.

Intelligent, Clever, Great writing, Funny, Entertaining

See it if You love Lynn Nottage’s writing and stories that center POC.

Don't see it if You don’t like it when characters break the 4th wall.

Entertaining, Resonant, Great acting

See it if 8 uber-talented actors playing multiple roles in 21st c. class, race, fame & uphill downhill descent at dizzying speed makes you go YEAH!

Don't see it if you don't want some woke w your escapism. Black cultural stereotypes from 'hood to boardroom humorously take on economic & social issues

Also Fast-paced fall of the hero (-ine). Not a word is wasted, written like... Read more Read less

Great acting, Hilarious, Clever

See it if You can laugh at race, class & gender matters tackled through over the top cliche characters & to see a GREAT performance by Cherise Boothe

Don't see it if You are likely to get offended by humor centered around Black families / experiences or contingent on sterotyping

Also The prodigal daughter returns home after falling off - really being ro... Read more Read less

Fun to watch, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Great writing

See it if your up for a modern fairy tale with an unexpected heroine. The actors and writing are all so good. The scene changes are so fun.

Don't see it if you are sensitive to smoke. (They smoke herbal cigarettes a couple of times during the show and someone in the back was throwing a fit)

Great writing, Great acting, Funny, Entertaining, Clever

See it if With typical Nottage clarity and sharp eye, this is a very funny exploration of black middle class, strivers and reinvention; great ensemble

Don't see it if This skewers stereotypes and our social and justice systems overladen with race,class and gender issues so not for all

Great acting, Funny, Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if Comedy, drama, documentary all rolled into one. multiple roles for many, Cherise Boothe & Ian Lasiter were superb. Partner's 95% & my 80%.

Don't see it if I needed time to adjust to the Dialects/Accents.

Great acting, Funny, Entertaining, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if You want to see great acting in a humorous satire about contemporary race and class issues in NYC

Don't see it if You are annoyed at all by any stereotyping of race in society today.

Funny, Great acting, Entertaining, Clever

See it if Lynn Nottage with a light touch - incisive observation but funny this time. Great production & acting - Undine and everyone else

Don't see it if I guess if you don't think black folks are worth watching.

Great acting, Poignant, Great writing, Funny, Clever

See it if you love clever writing and dialogue. It's a searing black culture riches-to-rags story, full of surprises on the spiral down and landing.

Don't see it if you don't like sarcastic humor that pokes fun at stereotypes. The subplots don't go very deep into the characters. Actors play many roles.

Fun costumes, Strong acting, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you like to see resilient characters who are able to change and become better.

Don't see it if don't like over the top characters who make you laugh.

Entertaining, Funny, Delightful, Clever

See it if You want to experience a story about a character falling from a position of power and how she struggles with her new role in society

Don't see it if You do not like broad over the top very funny dialogue and extreme characters struggling with the human condition.

Refreshing, Intelligent, Entertaining, Funny, Clever

See it if You want a sassy social satire about the life experience of a black female striver in America.

Don't see it if You really don’t want the above.

Hilarious, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a well-acted comedy with a few touching moments; you love Lynn Nottage like I do

Don't see it if you are looking for a hard-hitting or highly dramatic play like Ruined

Outrageous, Insightful, Wickedly funny

See it if You like witty, biting satire

Don't see it if You want a reverential and traditional play

Also I missed this work when it first premiered so I welcomed the opportuni... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Entertaining, Funny

See it if you are a Lynn Nottage fan. Looking for smart, entertaining play. Well written.

Don't see it if you are looking for heavy drama. Her message comes in clever bites.

Also I loved that each actor (except Undine of course) played multiple char... Read more Read less

Relevant, Great acting, Entertaining, Clever

See it if you don't mind watching someone unravel before you and you're interested in questions of class and identity, and if you like Lynn Nottage.

Don't see it if too much satire will ruin a profound and serious subject matter or if you're hoping it will be a deep and resonant as Ruined.

Cast & Creatives (15)