The plot sounds like the pitch to a new reality television series: pluck a career-driven and materialistic PR lady boss out of her plush Manhattan digs, throw her in the ghetto and saddle her penniless person with an unexpected pregnancy and drug-possession charge to see if and how she survives. A “Simple Life” it ain’t, and in playwright Lynn Nottage’s hugely entertaining “Fabulation, ” Ivy League-educated Undine Barnes-Callas (aka the self-reinvented Sharona Watkins from Brooklyn) is going to learn this the hard way, especially when she’s forced to crash with the working-class family she publicly disowned years ago. Next Theatre’s Chicago premiere of this social satire cum urban morality tale, about the bad things that can happen to those who deny their humble heritage, makes it difficult to resist the charms of Nottage’s deceptively simple script: it snaps with the delicious subversiveness of a head-rolling “sistah,” crackles with spunky dialogue and “pops” with the high-energy performance and comic timing of Jacqueline Williams in the lead role of Undine. Director Jason Loewith’s commendable choice to play up the satirical over the emotional is probably the best way to get past the story’s improbable plot turns and stereotypes, matching the script’s inspired zingers (Undine frets over obtaining celebrities for her “Fallopian Blockage” benefit) with hilarious visual puns including an ostentatious glitter-trimmed Baby Bjorn carrier or a woman behind bars who talks the talk but walks the walk with one missing shoe pump. There’s substance underneath the sitcom silliness that more serious-minded audiences will enjoy debating well after they’ve left the theater, but thankfully Undine’s “Re-Education” never resembles a preachy lecture. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Next Theatre, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes, Evanston, (847)475-1875. Thu 7:30pm/Fri-Sat 8pm/Sun 2pm. $20-$35. Through May 7.