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Goin' East on Ashland

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Ashland doesn't go east, of course. The title of this monologue by ruddy, rubber-faced Mike Houlihan is bartender's slang: someone going east on Ashland is off his nut. Unveiled last month as a work in progress and remounted this week as a Saint Patrick's Day offering, Houlihan's comic confession is a sometimes sacred, mostly profane, and often very funny reminiscence about growing up, but never quite fitting in, on Chicago's Irish Catholic "sout' side." Directed by Chris Hart (whose comedy credentials range from the Harvard Lampoon in its late-60s heyday to staging revivals of his father Moss Hart's classic plays), Goin' East is set in what looks like a rec room, cluttered with its author-star's boyhood memorabilia. With the set serving as a reminder of every youthful ideal he never pursued, Houlihan regales his audience with anecdotes and impersonations from a vividly remembered past: hiding Playboy under the mattress (until his mom replaced the magazines with pictures of Saint Sebastian being martyred), facing off in racially charged confrontations with guys from the other south side, learning lessons in power from the local ward heelers, visiting Mother McAuley high school dressed as a priest to hear teenage girls' confessions, confusedly praying for the soul of America's assassinated Irish Catholic president. Sometimes aiming at the universal, Goin' East on Ashland is best at its most literally parochial--when it brims with detailed references to the personalities and institutions of the parish that shaped Houlihan no matter how much he rebelled against it. Beverly Art Center, 2153 W. 111 111th, 445-3838. March 15 through 17: Tuesday-Wednesday, 8 PM; Thursday, 7 and 9:30 PM. $15.

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