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Sarah Quinn’s performs “Other People’s Problems” at Stage Left Studio in Chelsea this Friday and Saturday. It is an entertaining hour of satire on Anglo culture’s obsession with perfection and the soul killing emptiness of the industries that have developed to exploit it.

The show is three short plays punctuated by clever video productions. The first play imagines that we are at a self-help seminar; the second is a web cam chat with a teenage, Australian Ann Landers; and the third is a British woman listening to a self-help tape, hoping it will boost her confidence enough to speak to that special guy.

The skits get better as the show goes on (though that may be because I saw the show opening night). The first one is a bit dated. It is a send-up of the self-help seminars that proliferated in the 1990s that P. T. Anderson satirized in “Magnolia.” Long story short, the person offering advice needs to follow it herself. The second segment is brilliant however – a subtle autopsy of the nexus between technology and our all-too-human need for love and acceptance. Of course, this is the central theme of the entire show: when we seek out “self” help we are, in fact, trying to reach out to another, perhaps our ideal self, but more likely the friend or lover who is going to recognize and complete us.

In all three shorts Ms. Quinn shows off her finely tuned acting chops. She displays fine comedic sensibilities, and there is never a dull second in the hour.

Other People’s Problems

Stage Left Studios

214 W 30th Street, 6th floor

June 23, 24@ 7:30pm

$20

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Christina Shipp and Stephen Conrad Moore as A.J. and Ajax in Iraq

Ellen McLaughlin, author of Ajax in Iraq, turned to the ancient Greeks to make sense out of our soldiers’ experience in Iraq because the Greeks were the first to make sense of the fear, rage, and terror that constitute war by creating a theater for veterans and by veterans. Aeschylus fought in both the battles of Marathon and Salamis (c. 480 BCE). Sophocles was 16 when the Greeks triumphed at Salamis and served as a citizen general in the Athenian army during the Peloponnesian War. These were men who knew the terrors of war first hand, and it is their authority McLaughlin draws on to untangle the Gordian knot of meanings that are present for us, Americans, about our ten-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Nicole Beerman, Joe Varca, and Megan Hill in "Cut"

Welcome to the machine.

Cut by Crystal Skillman is a theatrical piece about TV, a play about the seriousness of the entertainment industry, a post-modern meditation on Post-modernism. If that sounds like a lot to chew on, it is. Cut is a theatrical essay on the socially constructed nature of “reality,” the brass ring to which all serious artists aspire. And Ms. Skillman has fostered a reputation as a downtown playwright who isn’t afraid to take on The Big Questions. Take, for instance, her play The Vigil or the Guided Cradle, a play about the universality and timelessness of torture in the human experience. The “cut” of the play’s title is its guiding metaphor. A “cut” is what an editor does to film to create a story; what your boss does to your job to save his own skin; and – the cruelest cut of all – what the critic does to put you in your place.

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