Size Matters

Just because an idea isn't capable of sustaining a full-length, deluxe, two-hour extravaganza doesn't mean it's worthless. The problem with short plays and films is that audiences are not likely to line up in droves to see a seven-minute show, even if that seven minutes is bursting with more entertainment value than something 20 times its length.

Enter "Squeeze Plays 2004," six separate productions by three Houston-area playwrights, all jammed into a single evening of what might be dubbed ADT (Attention Deficit Theater). "Squeeze Plays" started as a humble showcase at the Fan Factory for runners-up in the annual "Scriptwriters 10 x 10" contest, but it has recently gained a greater focus. "For the last two years we really began aggressively pursuing particular writers," says Jonathan Harvey, Fan Factory artistic director. "This year we've got some of the funniest stuff on stage that I've personally seen in a long time."

The miniaturized format encourages irreverence. The perhaps excessively titled l-l-l-l-l-l-l-llLLLLed shheffffFFf!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, a virtual cooking show performed by the nine-member Slump troupe, is the centerpiece here. The play parodies the Iron Chef series and features a heavily guarded secret ingredient, a built-in Greek chorus in the form of a female gospel belter and -- what else? -- lead-poisoning worries. Playwright Keith Reynolds warns potentially peckish audience members that while actual food will be prepared during his show, "it probably won't be anything you would actually want to eat."

Of the remaining five plays on the bill, two were written by recent New York transplant Harrison Barth and a whopping three are by local wack-job Tony Esparza, who promises commentary on such profound subjects as sexual dysfunction among superheroes, hit men with overdue cable bills and what a pain in the ass it would be if your job title was "the Tooth Fairy." In an age where overblown superproductions are the norm, "Squeeze Plays" is bent on proving that size matters in more than one way.

The show opens at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17. Through Saturday, June 26. Midtown Arts Center, 1423 Holman. For information, call 832-465-4563 or visit $8 to $10.

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Scott Faingold