It's so easy for me to be "along for the ride" while watching NBC "Saturday Night Live" favorite Nora Dunn perform her new one-woman show "Mythical Proportions."
I've always been a fan of funny Dunn's talent and her tenure, 1984 to 1991, on television's longest running late-night comedy sketch show, a timeframe that stretched through my high school and college TV viewing years.
But even for anyone who is not as familiar with Dunn and her wonderful silly yet intellectually entertaining characterizations, her 75-minute, no intermission stage showcase is a ticket that doesn't disappoint. It continues a six-week run until Sept. 22 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago.
"Mythical Proportions" is told with Dunn's characterizations of four different people, all sharing experiences that meld with entertaining and enlightening insight and perspectives.
They range from the memories of a mythical 87-year-old Hollywood doyenne who discovered the greatest stars of the '50s to the musings of a 7-year old girl who is mystified by the small world of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" and the life of the inmates in a TV series called "Lockdown." It proceeds to a 65-year-old woman, Mrs. Williams, who chronicles a family history tainted by racism yet grounded in love, followed by a dreamy middle-aged English bookkeeper who's ill-fated vacation to Southern California ends in tragedy. And in between slipping in and out of all of these identities, Dunn serves up her own share of personal stories from her childhood on Chicago's West Side to colliding tales of the rich and powerful players in show business.
Her props and stage surroundings are simple yet brilliant. With just a stool and small side table to access a pair of Coke-bottle (thick) glasses, the pigtail holders of a small child, a large, costume jewelry ring, as well as Dunn's own reading eyeglasses and a mug of drinking water, she holds court in front of a colorful paint-splashed canvas that extends with paint speckles all over the concrete floor. Just behind her and above, a large artistic print looms.
She guides her audience on a journey that extends from her family roots and Chicago Catholic neighborhood youth to her glimpse of how the days of Golden Hollywood unfolded according to her imagination. With references to Gregory Peck, Doris Day and Rock Hudson to a classic tale of when she finally met her matinee idol Robert Mitchum, at age 70, when he guest-hosted "Saturday Night Live" in November 1987.
Her personal stories are a bounty of blended showbiz tales, both old and new, and include references to both her first and second husbands. (She explains: "In Hollywood, you're allowed at least two marriages.") From sharing her accepted invitation to fly to the White House at the request of then-President Bill Clinton with her other movie castmates to screen a new movie she was in (she stayed at the famed Watergate Hotel) to agreeing to do a dismal agent "you-have-to-do-this" request to participate in a trainwreck 1992 cable charity cause TV special hosted by Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr, she has much to regale others.
And yes, she even delves into a recent invite and her attendance a few years ago for an anniversary return for a special "Saturday Night Live" taping, which she admits left her "feeling like Norma Desmond" of "Sunset Boulevard."
Dunn poignantly proves you can always return to your past, and laugh and learn more than a thing or two along the way.
Tickets are $35 at (773) 975-8150 or theaterwit.org.