Lyric Stage Company kicks off its 2022-2023 season by presenting a unique "riches-to-rags story" well worth seeing as it asks the ages-old question, “Can you ever really go home again?”
The beginning and end of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage's ""FABULATION OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE" plays out like a Hallmark or Lifetime "romcom" movie, i.e. "Professional woman reluctantly returns home and subsequently meets the man of her dreams."
Everything else in between that beginning and ending, though, would most likely never make it past the "pitch" phase at either studio.
Yet, this is also where the heart of Nottage's material beats strongest.
So? Their loss.
Wealthy, confident, articulate and assertive professional Undine (Lyndsay Allyn Cox) seemingly has got it made. She is literally a "self-made" success - a demanding, prominent businesswoman who controls the situation and never lets up.
(Photo: Shani Farrell, Lyndsay Allyn Cox and Dayenne CB Walters in Lyric Stage Company's "FABULATION OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE," by Lynn Nottage, now playing in Boston, MA. through October 9, 2022. Photo by Mark S. Howard)
Never, that is, until she is stopped dead in her tracks as she learns from her Accountant (Barlow Adamson, performing in multiple roles) that her irresponsible rogue of a husband, Hervé (Jaime José Hernández, also performing in multiple roles) has absconded with all her savings.
A subsequent FBI investigation also reveals that Undine has been living under an assumed name for over a decade as she created a new persona to climb up her ladder of success.
Now, the FBI has seized whatever assets Undine has left as part of their ongoing investigation, leaving Undine destitute. There are also no friends in her immediate social circle of high society to which Undine can turn.
Compounding these new revelations...Undine discovers she is also pregnant.
Now, with her business shut down, no funds to her name and no place in which to live, Undine must head to...no, not to "Schitt's Creek" (but good guess)...she returns to her long abandoned (by Undine) Brooklyn home and to the family and neighborhood life on which she had long turned her back.
Under the consummate direction of Dawn M. Simmons, the satirical comedy has numerous plot twists, taking Undine on a poignant and transformative odyssey to where she is forced to re-examine her life's choices and the subsequent impact made by those choices on those she left behind.
In addition to the myriad of characters played by Adamson and Hernández, there are plenty of formidable performances thanks to the other members of the impeccable ensemble (Shani Farrell, Brittani Jenese McBride, Damon Singletary, Dayenne CB Walters and Sharmarke Yusuf) all serving to support Undine's journey in a plethora of complex, varied roles.
(Photo: Dayenne CB Walters, Sharmarke Yusuf, Lyndsay Allyn Cox, Damon Singletary and Shani Farrell in Lyric Stage Company's "FABULATION OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE," by Lynn Nottage, now playing in Boston, MA. through October 9, 2022. Photo by Mark S. Howard)
However, it is the bravura performance of Lyndsay Allyn Cox that peels back, layer upon layer, of the Undine persona, turning Undine from highly unsympathetic into someone with which you can find great compassion.
Undine undergoes notable appearance changes (beyond advancing pregnancy), especially in between acts.
These are exceptionally well selected changes, highlighting Undine's personal evolution as she drifts further away from the posh but fictional existence to which she became accustomed and learns more and more to exist back in the actual world she once fought fervently to forget.
(Photo: The CAST of Lyric Stage Company's "FABULATION OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE," by Lynn Nottage, now playing in Boston, MA. through October 9, 2022. Photo by Mark S. Howard)
Will she regain her status as a power broker or resolve to embrace her past? Will she find love with another or at least learn to love herself, her true self, and all those closest to her? These are the Lifetime/Hallmark questions we are left with as the show's second act unfolds.
In the end, it will ultimately require a leap of faith on Undine's part. Whether or not she can successfully make that leap remains to be seen.
Scenic Design by Jenna McFarland Lord accentuates the storytelling aspect of "FABULATION OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE," by placing this world as part of a sketch artists' "storyboard" making it almost reminiscent of a daily black and white newspaper comic strip. Simply beautiful artistry.
Working in tandem with superb Lighting Design by Michael Clark Wonson the combination truly elevates the entire piece, allowing the story to freely unfold in front of us.
"FABULATION OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE" is a fabulous way to begin Lyric's 2022-2023 season, for sure.
Approximately two hours, with one 15 minute intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
Success. Love. Fabulous wardrobe. Undine has it all.
Until her husband steals her hard-earned fortune, sending her tumbling down the social ladder.
Pregnant and penniless, with life unraveling at every turn, Undine is forced to return home to Brooklyn and the family she left behind, in a crude new reality.
In this satirical comedy by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage (Intimate Apparel, Meet Vera Stark, Sweat) while life unravels, hope can be found in small victories and in the discovery of finding happiness within.
Founded in 1974 and in residence at 140 Clarendon Street since 1991, THE LYRIC STAGE OF BOSTON is Boston’s oldest resident theatre company. Our mission is to produce and present live theatre in Greater Boston with an intimate approach that promotes inclusivity and connection. THE LYRIC STAGE leads an effort to integrate live theater and theater education into the lives of all residents of greater Boston.
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