Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine

by Lynn Nottage
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Last Updated on February 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1207

Lynn Nottage’s play Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine opens with Undine in her office, chatting with a client on the phone. She calls in her assistant, Stephie, and berates her for not finding her a celebrity in time for an upcoming event. They go through several options, but Stephie affirms that she has contacted everyone.

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Undine’s accountant, Richard, enters, and they discuss her recent marital situation. Undine explains that she woke up and discovered that her husband, Herve, had left her, illustrating how he methodically moved his clothes out in anticipation. Richard then tells her that Herve has been siphoning money out of her account, that she may have to declare bankruptcy, and that she is broke. Undine is exasperated; she says that declaring bankruptcy would mean the failure of the fourteen years she has spent building her public relations company.

Stephie mentions that someone is at the door, and an FBI agent enters. After confirming Undine’s name, he informs her that while investigating her husband’s activities, they discovered no record of Undine’s existence. Undine, anguished, asks for a moment alone. She addresses the audience, briefly giving a summary of her personal history, from her childhood in Brooklyn to starting her own lavish PR firm. The first scene then ends with Undine collapsing on the floor while grabbing her chest.

At the doctor’s office, Undine believes she has suffered a heart attack, but after a doctor examines her chest, he tells her that she has actually had a severe anxiety attack. Further, to her astonishment, he informs her that she is pregnant.

The scene then flashes back to when Undine and Herve first met; they danced the tango at an extravagant New Year’s Eve party, and Undine immediately fell in love with him.

Undine later discusses her pregnancy with her friend Allison, and while asserting that she has become “some sort of social pariah,” movers come in and disassemble her office. Undine laments the intolerance that society has toward privileged black women, believing that her current financial situation is “karmic retribution.” As Allison exits, a Yoruba priest enters, claiming that Undine has angered the African spirit Elegba and demanding penance for abandoning her family.

Later on, Undine sits at the dinner table with her parents; her brother, Flow; and her grandma. Undine asks her mother if she can stay with them until she “gets back on her feet.” Her mother obliges, but says she has to share a bed with her grandma. As Undine and Grandma converse in the bedroom, Grandma recalls watching Undine leave the house as a teenager; feeling dismayed that she hasn’t returned in fourteen years, Grandma suggests that Undine is ashamed of her family. Then, to Undine’s shock and confusion, Grandma prepares a shot of heroin for herself, revealing that she has been using drugs since her husband died.

Undine’s mother walks in, willfully oblivious to Grandma’s drug use. When she leaves, Grandma asks Undine to buy her more heroin. On the street, Undine approaches a drug dealer and buys drugs. Upon seeing a police car approaching, he throws her the bag and runs away. As the policeman searches her, Undine tells him that the heroin is for her grandmother, but he ignores her and places her under arrest.

In the next scene, Undine is in a prison cell with two other women. One of the inmates taunts her, but the woman backs off when Undine has an emotional outburst. The other woman in the cell, who is there for assaulting a man who was sexually harassing her, is friendlier toward Undine. The last scene of act 1 ends by jumping forward in time to Undine’s trial, during which the judge sentences her to six months of drug counseling.

At the beginning of act 2, Undine is at a compulsory...

(The entire section contains 1207 words.)

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