Eric Overmyer is over the top sometimes. A master wordsmith, he taps into the zeitgeist with plays that are so packed with language and ideas that you can barely absorb it all in one sitting. His shrewdly funny "In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe," currently in a smart production at the Powerhouse, is a case in point.
Paranoia strikes deep in Manhattan as "In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe" tracks the nocturnal comings, goings and neuroses of several conspiracy-theory book ghostwriters. It's a sexy and literate whirl though a B-movie noir world, as the antsy characters get sucked into the prevailing climate of collusion faster than you can ask who killed Jimmy Hoffa.
The banter is chock-full of references to contemporary history--so much so that it's almost a cultural "sampling"--slyly woven into a half-camp, half-serious text. It isn't an easy play to stage, calling as it does for a number of styles within the many short scenes, but director Jon Larson's ambitious production aims high and mostly makes the goal.
The cast, several of whom play double roles, has a better time with the camp stuff than with the serious parts. Ping Wu, for example, is sensually evil as the underworld bad guy Tai-Tung Trahn, but can't quite find his mark as the young writer Dennis Wu. Lynn Minor and Carolyn Hennesy vamp it up as shady Maria Montage and her lusty sidekick Buster, and Clayton Murray and Cary Collier put in strong work in their quirky roles too. But Carol Bivins, who does a generally OK job as the SWF protagonist, has no chemistry with Wu, who plays her dud of a boyfriend.
*"In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe," Powerhouse Theater, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica, Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m.; Ends July 25 (no performances June 20-July 8). $13. (310) 392-6529.