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"An intellectual puzzle' of a play

Eric Overmyer is frequently described as writing "language plays," along with other modern American playwrights such as Mac Wellman and Timberlake Wertenbaker. But aren't all plays language plays?

"The idea is that these playwrights use the vernacular that is popular now and create characters who are in love with the English language," said David O'Hara, director of Overmyer's In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe, which opens tonight in a Stageworks production. "His plays are real focused on language and are idea-oriented more than action-oriented."

Overmyer has said that In Perpetuity, which premiered in 1988, is about anti-Asian and anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States. It's set in a publishing house at night and deals with conspiracy theories.

In Perpetuity and other Overmyer plays have few stage directions, leaving plenty of latitude for interpretation. "I was struck by the structure of the play," O'Hara said. "It is fairly disjointed, with no linear narrative. The audience will have to keep the ears open and minds working. It's an intellectual puzzle."

Overmyer's most widely produced play is On the Verge, but he has been lured away from theater lately to write for television series such as Homicide: Life in the Street, the cop show set in Baltimore. Many of his plays have debuted at Baltimore's Center Stage.

O'Hara, onetime artistic director of the defunct Loft Theater, who now works at Producers Inc., an artists' management company in Tampa, has been on something of a roll since he took over direction of American Stage's A Christmas Carol nine days before it opened last year. He replaced a director who had alienated cast and crew and pulled the production together to become a holiday-season hit. Also at American Stage, he directed the children's theater production of Puss in Boots in April.

In February, O'Hara took a break from directing to get married to Rebecca Squires in Hawaii. Squires is in the cast of In Perpetuity, which also includes Jimmy Chang, Maureen Van Trease, Ranney, Dawn Truax and Ron Sommer.

Cast members perform vignettes of the play at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 213 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.

In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe runs through May 24 at the Falk Theatre in Tampa. Tickets are $12 and $14. Call 253-6243.

NEW PLAYS: A pair of new plays will be performed this weekend at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater as part of the West Central Florida Playwright's Process. For the Benefit of Mr. Bracket, a comedy about a family reunion by Barton Bishop, is the winner in the adult playwright category and will be staged at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Studio One. Bishop is a sophomore theater major at Rollins College. Tickets are $6.

No Conversation by Danny Fisher, a junior at the International Baccalaureate School in Bartow, is winner of the Very Special Arts Component, which is open to writers with disabilities and seeks scripts addressing disabilities. Fisher's play deals with blindness and will receive a staged reading at 2 p.m. Saturday at Studio One. Tickets are $4.

Each performance will be followed by a discussion moderated by Playwright's Process director Elizabeth Brincklow. Call 791-7400.

Through the Leaves by Franz Xaver Kroetz is the next entry in American Stage's New Visions series of new-play readings. The German drama, about a relationship from the woman's point of view, is on the agenda at 7 p.m. Monday at the St. Petersburg theater. Tickets are $5. Call 822-8814.

MUSIC: The Nudes _ Walter Parks, guitar and vocals; Stephanie Winters, cello and vocals _ have been together since 1991, playing a range of music, from tangos to Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child. The group's name comes from its admiration for "things that have impact yet are sophisticated like nude paintings and sculpture," Winters says. "Our music was stripped down to the essentials _ just a duo. The name fit." They play Saturday night at 8 at Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $8 and $10. Call 942-5605.

The Tampa Bay Chamber Orchestra gives its season finale at 4 p.m. Sunday at St. John's Episcopal Church in Tampa. Bach and Mozart are on the program. Tickets are $15. Call 307-0098 or 259-1570.

Thomas Wilkins conducts the Florida Orchestra in pops and light classics in a free concert Sunday night at 7 in Coachman Park, Clearwater.

YOUTH MUSIC: Three concerts put the spotlight on young musicians this weekend. Andrew Cohen, a seventh-grade violinist from Palm Harbor, and Lana Georgiou, a violinist in 11th grade from Tarpon Springs, perform solos with the Suncoast Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 tonight at Oldsmar Elementary School. Tickets are $3 and $5. Call 855-5940.

The Pinellas Youth Symphony, Robert Romanski conducting, plays the season's grand finale concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets are $3 and $6. Call 438-3149.

The spring concert of the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus features percussionist Kathy Armstrong and a pair of new works by composer David Brunner at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Playhouse of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $8.50. Call 229-7827.

CRITIC'S CHOICE: NPR's Performance Today, which isn't carried by a Tampa Bay radio station, recently announced its annual classical music awards. The three CD winners were the Emerson String Quartet for Beethoven: The String Quartets (DG); the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Owain Arwell Hughes conducting, for Vagn Holmboe's Symphony No. 2 and In Memoriam (BIS); and Puccini's La Rondine, with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (EMI). The debut recording of the year was by the Eroica Trio for EMI.