IN PERPETUITY THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSE --

(Through Nov. 18 at the Studio Theatre)

Playwright Eric Overmyer believes the world is full of people who think the Vatican assassinated Abraham Lincoln, the Jews control all the financial and media outlets, and the CIA is secretly running drugs. His "In Perpetuity" entertains, provokes and confuses with a scattershot blast of scenes and speeches performed by a truly bizarre cast of characters. The play centers on Maria Montage (Mary Ellen Nestor), the chic proprietor of a vanity press that specializes in publishing conspiracy theorists of left and right (mostly right). Around her are various clients and ghostwriters, including Ampersand Qwerty (Lawrence Redmond), author of "several speculative books detailing a series of interlocking global conspiracies," and Lyle Vial (James Ream), a preppy-looking guy lubricated with controlled substances and the recipient of numerous strange chain letters. As a literary provocateur, Overmyer could be the American Tom Stoppard, tossing out allusions, puns, jokes and startling perorations faster than one can keep up with them. The production is happily in tune with his script, melding a potentially uncomfortable combination of seriousness and insanity. "How can you explain the world without a conspiracy theory," as one character asks, is the play's motto. -- Megan Rosenfeld

SEASCAPE --

(Through Sunday at Montgomery College's Black Box Theatre)

When the lights come up on Nancy and Charlie, the central couple of Edward Albee's "Seascape," they appear to have it all. Intelligent, prosperous, attractive people of indeterminate middle age, they've settled into a sunny cove overlooking the ocean. Yet as the play proceeds, certain flaws in the pair's relationship come to light. Nancy (Faith Potts) yearns for spontaneity and adventure. Cynical Charlie (Richard Foster) knocks her every fantasy. Just when it seems that their seaside idyll may be irrevocably shattered, a pair of enormous green English-speaking lizards named Sarah (Rosemary Regan) and Leslie (Mark Moorhead) appear on the scene to thrash out their own personal quandaries. The production, by the new Trumpet Vine Theatre Company, allows us to initially relate to the human couple's problems, laugh when the gallumphing reptiles scare the blazes out of them, and seriously reflect when the four creatures discuss such weighty topics as evolution, risk, lust and love. This "Seascape" is a winning combination of philosophical reverie and surreal situation comedy.