The world is full of people who think that the Vatican assassinated Abraham Lincoln and that Jews control all the financial and media outlets, that the CIA is secretly running drugs, that the KGB is the root of all evil, and that Idi Amin is an avid bowler holed up in Saudi Arabia and D.B. Cooper is his coach. At least, according to playwright Eric Overmyer they do.

"In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe" is Overmyer's acerbic, dark and frequently hilarious look at the weird products of bigotry and paranoia, in which the cuckoos and the sane people who think they have them under control mix feverishly during several midnights. The play, which opened this week in an elegant production at the Studio Theatre, entertains, provokes and confuses with a scattershot blast of scenes and speeches performed by a truly bizarre cast of characters. One is tempted to suspect that Overmyer has either lived in New York most of his life or has spent time reading the mail received in an average day at a newspaper.

There is Maria Montage (Mary Ellen Nester), the chic proprietor of a vanity press that specializes in publishing "apostles of paranoia," conspiracy theorists of left and right (but mostly right). "Paranoia transcends politics," she says, and who can argue with her? Her clients also "pay up front for their delusions." Montage prefers to work at night, when everything is as dark as her writers' views.

Ampersand Qwerty (Lawrence Redmond) is one of her more successful clients. He's the author of ZOG, "a white supremacist acronym for Zionist Occupation Government," and "several speculative books detailing a series of interlocking global conspiracies." (They sound like the type of book you can buy at airports from young men sitting at makeshift tables with handwritten signs that say Lyndon LaRouche on them.) Qwerty, however wealthy, is incapable of writing coherently, so Montage employs a crew of ghostwriters to turn his and other clients' drivel into readable prose.

Dennis Wu (Donald Li) is one of them, as is Lyle Vial (James Ream), a preppy-looking guy lubricated with controlled substances and the recipient of numerous strange chain letters. Wu's girlfriend, Christine (Isabel Keating), has just gotten a job with Montage, transferring from a vanity press where she was tired of the "unsolicited" and the "Self-Help-How-To-Be-Your-Own-Best- Friend-Diet-Masturbation-And- Gardening Books."

Buster (Sarah Marshall) is Montage's "major domo," a fey little creature who has started to take it all a

Overmyer loves lists, and the device serves him well, stippling images quickly across a wide canvas. Denni

There are subplots as well, with some of the characters playing B-movie alter egos in strange vignettes. F

As a literary provocateur, Overmyer could be the American Tom Stoppard, tossing out allusions, puns, jokes

At times, however, he veers off into directions that lead nowhere. The subplot about Christine's own novel

The production is happily in tune with the script, melding a potentially uncomfortable combination of seri

Among the competent cast, Isabel Keating as Christine and Sarah Marshall as the loony Buster (she doubles

In the end, Overmyer would have us think -- I think -- that the line between the deep end and the shore is

In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe, by Eric Overmyer, directed by Ron Nakahara, sets by Russell Metheny