MICKEY FINN, Royal George Theatre Center. Actor-writer-producer Mike Houlihan had a hit a few seasons back with his one-man comedy Goin’ East on Ashland, an alternately sensitive and salty autobiographical account of growing up on Chicago’s Irish-Catholic south side in the 1960s. But the raunchy, racially charged humor and geographical references that gave Houlihan’s monologue its engaging specificity come off as crude and insular in this “noir comedy,” which uses Houlihan’s old stomping grounds as the setting for a Raymond Chandler-style tale of lust and deception.
The play’s archetypal characters–sultry femme fatale, insanely jealous husband, cynical barkeep, and crooked, brutal cop–simultaneously salute and spoof the noir form, but the clumsy attempts at parody are at odds with classic noir’s fundamental moral seriousness. There’s nothing funny about an Irish-American racist trying to sodomize his wife’s Latino lover with a flagpole, or a white policeman shooting a black teenager because he thinks the kid is wielding a gun instead of a candy bar, and the script’s barrage of penis-size jokes and racial slurs are repulsive rather than revealing.
LA director Chris Hart (Houlihan’s collaborator on Goin’ East on Ashland) coaxes solid performances from Houlihan, Mary Kay Cook, Thomas White, Jose Saros Solis, and Mark Reisman (especially good as the cop). But not even Hart’s father, legendary playwright-director Moss Hart, could have done anything with this show’s cheap-looking set and amateurish sound effects–or with Houlihan’s ambitious but ill-conceived script.