During the two-year odyssey for Nora Dunn to create and fine-tune her new one-woman show "Mythical Proportions," the funny lady of NBC "Saturday Night Live" fame did her share of learning and self-discovery.
And through the process, she gained a new character to share on stage with audiences and showcased during the one hour and 10 minute performance for the six-week run that opened Aug. 19 and continues until Sept. 22 at Theater Wit 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" and proceeding 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.
"I originally started with just the three characters," Dunn said while chatting by telephone Monday.
"I had my producer from California see an earlier version of the show while I was still workshopping it and he thought I needed to add one more character and voice to the experience. So while driving across country, I met my character Mrs. Williams, inspired by my own encounter and developed her as my fourth character."
Dunn, who for the past seven years has moved back to Chicago happily living in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, said she originally planned to include a favorite character named Crystal Lynn Pickett, who she has morphed into for past performances, including portraying her on Roseanne Barr's daytime television talk show.
"Crystal just did not fit in this piece," Dunn said.
"I'm happy with my finished show, including the set, which I especially love because of the art used."
Dunn is also still happy to talk about her years on "Saturday Night Live," which so often paired her up with fellow funny females Jan Hooks and Victoria Jackson during her time on the show from 1985 to 1990.
Her repertoire of famous names she's spoofed in TV skits over the years include advice columnist Ann Landers, astrologer Jeane Dixon, Marilyn Quayle, Liza Minnelli, gossip columnist Cindy Adams, "Queen of Mean" hotel maven Leona Helmsley,and tennis star Martina Navratilova.
But most recently, following her 2011 Broadway in Chicago run in sisters Nora and Delia Ephron's "Love, Loss and What I Wore," earlier this year, she starred at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. in a two-month run of the stage comedy "Boeing, Boeing," which just closed Aug. 4.
"I haven't worked a cast in a while and it hard, but I enjoyed it," said Dunn, who said she had her rescue dog Petie with her at her side for company and as a good luck charm.
"It was tough keeping of the pace with doing the Drury Lane performance run and also working on getting my new solo show ready to open. But I did it and I'm happy with what I have to share with the audience when we're together."