Playwright: Nora Dunn. At: 1113 Productions at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-975-8150; www.theaterwit.org; $24-$32. Runs through: Sept. 22
Three kinds of audiences will likely be attracted to Nora Dunn's solo show. A percentage will be middle-aged would-be hipsters nostalgic for the snarky satire that marked her contribution to Saturday Night Live during her stint thereat nearly thirty years ago. Another contingent will consist of stardust-snorters in search of dirty-lowdowns on her famous chums. Lastly will be people who didn't watch television in the 1980s and thus, now know almost nothing about the woman with the wholesome Irish-schoolgirl smile and her enigmatically titled 80-minute invitation to chat.
None of them will walk away disappointed. For the first group, Dunn assumes the persona of an octogenarian Hollywood agent to reminisce about Big Names that she mentored and bedded (all of them, coincidentally, handsome young men), and later invokes the always-reliable personality of a wise-beyond-her-years child. For the second demographic, she recounts the progress of an ill-conceived charity benefit featuring top-name comedy acts that derails after a microphone malfunction and sinks further and further into meltdown.
Having sated playgoers hungry for cheap shtick and sniggers, Dunn then proceeds to tell us storiesquirky, eccentric anecdotes of her own youth on Chicago's West Side, where discarded objects in a basement or closet provide the foundation for self-styled shrines, for example, or a cautionary tale of a mousy Scots spinster whose Los Angeles vacation sees her participating in that city's native customs of ingesting drugs, assisting in burglaries and assaulting innocent citizens. The detachment of a commoner thrust outside of her natural element also underlies Dunn's account of a dinner with A-list celebrities that ends in her retreat to the company of the limo chauffeurs.
Even her 7-year-old moppet expresses sympathy for Mister Rogers, the lonely "latchkey man" who must ask his neighbors to be his friends. The centerpiece of the evening's program, however, is a character-memoirinspired, says its author, by a drive through Missouri, where she lived for a timein which an African-American matron shares the saga of her stubbornly ethnocentric spouse's journey from bigotry to acceptance of his daughter's white husband and mixed-race grandchild.
A few stops on Dunn's tour of her contradictory world may tarry longer than necessary, but you couldn't ask for a more candid or compassionate guide than this raconteuse who ultimately chose to return to her midwestern home over the industrial centers of Manhattan and Malibu. Envy us, you coastal factory towns.