Love and death are everywhere in Traverse Two this year. Whether the scheduling of shows with such similar themes was deliberate, or whether it is a barometer of uncertain times, apart from the joy of David Greig and Gordon McIntyre's lo-fi musical Midsummer, receiving a much deserved revival following its radiant premiere during the otherwise bleak winter of 2008, there is a common thread.

What happens when your perfect life, with your beautiful wife and perfect daughter, has the rug pulled from under it? A private tragedy that no-one involved will ever get over is the scenario related by Alex, the father at the heart of Sea Wall (****) . Simon Stephens's heartbreaking 30-minute miniature comes from the Bush Theatre and is played with the lights up on the audience for the most intimate of exchanges.

With low-key charm, Alex takes us through his epiphanies of domestic bliss, from the wonder he feels gazing at his wife in a posh frock, to a diving trip in the south of France with his father-in-law, where idylls are shattered by the cruel force of nature, divine intervention or whatever.

What Stephens is doing in George Perrin's production is charting one man's loss of an already rocky faith in humanity. It's beautifully underplayed, with Andrew Scott's performance as Alex delivered with deceptive precision in a slow-burning revelation that lingers long after everything snaps into blackness.

There's something of Peter Lorre about Edgar Oliver in East 10th Street - Self Portrait With Empty House (****) , an autobiographical trawl through his New York neighbourhood. The plummy-voiced resident of the big haunted house emanates considerably more eccentric warmth than the bug-eyed screen star, however. As the La MaMa veteran invites us into the twilight zone of a rooming house that's part Rising Damp, part House of Mystery, the roll-call of Edward Gorey grotesques he introduces us may be strange, but he never treats these encounters with anything less than affection.

Perhaps it's because, like Frances, the "Lady Macbeth of rags", Freddie Thinman, the pop-eyed midget Khabbalist, and the others, Oliver is seeking sanctuary from the world. Although he and his sister Helen may have moved in when he was a young man in 1977, both he and his environment feel like fragile antiques from a far more precious, sepia-tinted world.

Lit from below and delivering his yarns with unique phrasing, Oliver cuts a remarkable dash, as if that other New York room-house dweller Quentin Crisp had blessed him with the mantle of left-field raconteurship. Beyond the thumbnail sketches of his neighbours, this is a love story about the house, the city and with the young actor he fell for. Randall Sharp's production brings to life what is essentially a set of routines a la Spalding Gray, but infused with a gallows humour and a guileless sincerity.

In Little Gem (****) , playwright Elaine Murphy takes three generations of mothers and tunes in on private lives. Their economically disenfranchised state is revealed in criss-crossing monologues that are a specialist niche in Ireland's theatre writing.

Amber is 19, mad for it and about to get a rude awakening to the real world. Her mum Lorraine is obsessive compulsive to the extent of attacking a customer in the shop she works in. With a junkie husband making his presence felt and some human needs to be filled, cutting loose at a salsa class leads her on a surprisingly merry dance. Lorraine's mother Kay, meanwhile, has an ailing husband who causes her to seek out more 21st-century means of looking after herself.

What Murphy has achieved in director Paul Meade's co-production between the Dublin-based companies, Guna Nua and the Civic Theatre Tallaight, is to give voice to female experiences without ever patronising her presumed audience. Murphy never over-eggs things. Given that none of the characters actually engages with each other onstage, the pan-generational dialogue is an achievement, rough-hewn but never bludgeoning its audience.

Murphy and Meade are aided by a sparky set of performances from Sarah Greene as Amber, Hilda Fay as Lorraine and Anita Reeves as Kay, whose final moments of acceptance, warms the heart even as you share her sadness.

There are obvious similarities between Stefan Golaszewski Is A Widower (***) and Sea Wall . This sequel-of-sorts to 2008's Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About A Girl He Once Loved stretches things out to encompass an entire lifetime's response. Golaszewski's alter ego also moves into archer, more fantastical territory.

Clad in a white suit, Golaszewski begins his tale in 2056, by which time he's been the breakout star of plodding TV cop show The Bill and made the vacuous pages of Hello! magazine. He's also had a love-affair with the woman he calls Pudding, and for the first half of this hour-long show revels in the unadulterated bliss of being mentally, physically and spiritually head over heels with someone who is, or has become, his soul mate. Only when tragedy happens do you realise how utterly dislikeable a control freak he is. It's a tightrope Golaszewski treads, and you're never quite sure where he stands in Phillip Breen's clean but not entirely satisfactory production.

It's only right that Daniel Kitson has scaled down his latest trawl through the human condition for Traverse Two. The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church (****) , after all, is another look at small lives that end up encompassing an entire world in microcosm.

Here Kitson relates how, when viewing a house, he found in the loft more than 30,000 letters by and to a man who'd died there seven months before. Acquiring them, Kitson becomes an obsessive detective, and learns that Mr Church intended to commit suicide after sending out 57 letters in 1983, but instead kept up assorted correspondences lasting 24 years.

It's a beautifully funny unravelling, which, in the age of e-mail and social networking websites, is also a deliciously archaic reminder of a time when snail mail was the only way to communicate.

Sea Wall and East 10th Street: Self Portrait With Empty House run at various times to August 16. Little Gem and Stefan Golaszewski Is A Widower are at various times to August 30. The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church is at 10.15pm to August 30.