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Review: Mythical Proportions (Theater Wit)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Mythical Proportions (Theater Wit)   
Mythical Proportions 

Written and Performed by Nora Dunn
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Sept 22  |  tickets: $24-$32   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



Intimate, instantly familiar monologues are Dunn’s artistic signature


Review: Mythical Proportions (Theater Wit)


Theater Wit presents


Mythical Proportions

Review by Lawrence Bommer

“Saturday Night Live” veteran comedienne Nora Dunn says it with Midwestern finality: "If comedy is worth anything, it has to be dark at its core; maybe not always deeply dark but at least dusk. What we need to laugh at is always something that is, on some level, tragic." In her dramatic desk there are no separate drawers.

Intimately and instantly familiar monologues performed in character are Dunn’s artistic signature. Like the poems she wrote for her demanding dad, her unstoppable need to make-believe has become an unstoppable flow of storytelling. It all began on the West Side, where she grew up in a house whose basement featured a wooden leg in a basement corner that suggested so much more. The make-up kit of an actor, left behind after he committed suicide, also left a legacy to be preserved in talespinning.

Review: Mythical Proportions (Theater Wit)
Clad in an earth-colored dress and brushing back her hair as she sinks into her stories, Nora Dunn regales us with her “born nostalgia” for Darryl Zanuck’s Hollywood (where Doris Day had a darker side as “Doris Night”): Telling us how she’d pray to Marilyn Monroe as a patron star, she imagines a now 87-year-old celebrity agent who keeps switching the real and fake names of assorted Tinsel Town royalty and undiscovered wanna-bes, discovering an 18-year-old Rock Hudson as a bellhop but switching his moniker with Warren Beattie. Ever constant is the memory of Lana Turner, an unknown dreamer discovered in a sultry sweater at Shraft’s.

After total immersion in Gotham neuroses and L.A. phoniness, Dunn is glad to settle for Chicago where we keep it real because we’ve got no choice. Though fascinated by the facades, Dunn has great trouble with the Hollywood reality: She confesses she goes narcoleptic when auditioning before moguls. She’d rather dwell on the incongruity of being kicked out of Central Park for accidentally dropping food that fed a zoo animal against regulations, though, to balance yin with yang, just beforehand she helped an old lady cross Park Avenue, which suddenly seemed a new reason for living.

She regales us with stories of then-president Bill Clinton’s sexy enthusiasm over her Iraq film “Three Kings,” Meryl Streep’s nurturing brilliance, and a cross-country drive, where the progressive bumper stickers on her car increasingly stood out against an onslaught of “pro-life” propaganda, all of which led to some potentially dangerous pit stops.

Chosen characters include a simpering 7-year-old girl who wonders why Mr. Rogers is so lonely in his neighborhood (maybe because it’s so small) but is fascinated by the much more believable inmates of the National Geographic Channel’s “Lockdown” series. In a chilling California fantasy turned toxic, Dunn imagines a demure English lady bookkeeper who falls in love with Santa Monica but manages to turn her summer vacation into a tabloid tragedy.

In the most moving offering, the centerpiece of the show, Dunn creates 65-year-old Mrs. Williams, a black survivor with her own version of white flight and a husband whose self-segregation begins to make sense.

Dunn’s one-woman show is hardly that: Theater Wit is all the wiser for her passionate profusion.


Rating: ★★★



Mythical Proportions continues through September 22nd at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 7pm and 9:15pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $24-$32, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 75 minutes, NO intermission) 




Nora Dunn

behind the scenes

Nora Dunn (writer, director), Steve Ullman (producer), Jesse Young (creative consultant, dramaturg), Arica Hilton (set design/inspiration), Peach Carr (costumes), Tina Smothers (photos)


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