Shel Shocked

FRI 9/3

Those who know the late Shel Silverstein only as the author of beloved children's books (A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends) or offbeat country-tinged songs ("A Boy Named Sue," "Cover of the Rolling Stone") might be surprised to know that there's a darker, much more adult side to his pen. A collection of 14 of his short theatrical pieces in this vein -- from the slapstick to the existential -- will make up "Shel's Shorts" from the Fan Factory theatrical troupe. "It's bawdy, obnoxious and full of life, just like any good comedy should be," says artistic director Jonathan Harvey, who adds that the plays have adult language and are hosted by a dominatrix named Mistress Paine. The subjects range from a plumber who has a homosexual dream to a husband who tries to torment his wife by playing Russian roulette. "It plays out like Saturday Night Live would if the FCC would get off everyone's backs," he says. The versatile Silverstein certainly led a free-form lifestyle. At one point, he lived in the Playboy mansion, and Hugh Hefner had a custom Monopoly piece made for the author, a frequent player of the game. One of Silverstein's popular children's poems does make an appearance here ("Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout"), but as for the rest, it's a long way off from Kids' Day at the Houston Public Library. "Adults who love Shel's work and wordplay will love this show," Harvey says, "but they might want to find a baby-sitter for their children." 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, September 3 through 25. Midtown Arts Center, 1423 Holman. For information, call 832-651-5287 or visit $8 to $10. -- Bob Ruggiero

Wise Guy

It's easy to feel superior to the stand-up comedian. After all, you have a serious day job. You wear a suit. Your hair isn't all messed up. But don't bother feeling superior whatsoever to Greg Giraldo, because someday he just might decide to use his Juris Doctor from Harvard and subpoena your ass. This thinking-man's comedian, who also holds a degree from Columbia, typically engages himself in a hilarious yet intelligent debate on stage, pondering everything from obesity to terrorism, all without being bombastic or elitist. Giraldo is too refined for that --which isn't to say he combs his hair. 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 3 and 4. Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit $15.50 to $20. -- Julia Ramey

Dove Bars

SUN 9/5

To paraphrase the immortal wisdom of Hank Hill, Christian rock doesn't make Christianity any better, it only makes rock and roll worse. True that, but what about gospel music? Gospel doesn't have any pretense of being hip. Belting out songs of inspiration is, rather, a timeless tradition -- and a great way for a singer to flaunt her pipes. Cynthia Clawson is one of the best. This Austin-based songstress has won five Doves and a Grammy. She'll be flexing her throat this weekend with the Bere'sheet Ballet, a Houston-based dance company consisting of several survivors of cancer and various forms of abuse. If you've been looking for inspiration, then consider it found. 7 p.m. Sunday, September 5. Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas. For information, call 281-550-0002. $20. -- Keith Plocek

Muy Funny

WED 9/8

Sure, Jackie Chan may have delighted fans with his recent high-kickin' portrayal of Passepartout in the Disney flick Around the World in 80 Days. But the role was made famous in 1956 by Mario Moreno, or Cantinflas, as he was known to millions of fans from Latin America, Spain and across the globe. The Mexican master of physical comedy made more than 50 films and was even dubbed "the world's greatest comedian" by silent film megastar Charlie Chaplin. (We're not sure if Chaplin mimed the compliment or scribbled it on a notepad, but it stuck. Cantinflas would later be called "the Charlie Chaplin of Mexico.") Now, actor-author Herbert Sigüenza is returning to the Alley Theatre to reprise his tribute to the comedic legend in ¡Cantinflas! Opens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 8, and runs through Sunday, September 12. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue. For a full schedule, call 713-228-8421. $19 to $30. -- Steven Devadanam

The Queers Are Here

THU 9/2

Ever since Green Day dropped Dookie on the airwaves and had fans scrambling for the band's earlier stuff on Lookout! Records, many of the other punks on the label have been called sellouts. Joe Queer of the Queers has been tired of this bullshit for quite some time. "These kids don't tell me who's punk," he said back then, getting all punker-than-thou. "I have no marketable skills. If I wasn't in the Queers, I'd be back in the kitchen cooking." Catch the trio's infectious three-chord songs at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 2. Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Drive. For information, call 713-862-3838 or visit $5. -- Keith Plocek

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