The area's two Hale Center Theaters - in South Salt Lake and Orem - will open separate productions of Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" this week.

Now in its sixth season, the Salt Lake HCT version has Brigham Young University law professor Richard Wilkins as skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge. In Orem, Nathan Hale will play this role.While most of the major roles in the Salt Lake version are double-cast (because there are performances nightly Monday through Satur day, with several Saturday matinees), Wilkins, the actor, is almost as stubborn as Scrooge, the hard-nosed accountant. He will perform the role for every scheduled performance.

His association with "A Christmas Carol" goes back nearly 30 years. He bought a paperback copy of the book when he was in the third grade, reading and rereading it so many times if finally fell apart.

At the age of 12, he portrayed Peter Cratchit in a production at Pioneer Memorial Theatre and at 15 he first portrayed Scrooge in a junior high school production.

During the 1990 run he will surpass his 200 HCT portrayals of Scrooge.

"The appeal of the show lies in its universality," Wilkins says. "We are all Ebenezer Scrooge. As Scrooge visits his former self in the past - the lonely youth left alone in boarding school, the eager apprentice filled with enthusiasm for the future, the young businessman placing money before love and family - we are invited to recall our own hurts, our own hopes, our own lost priorities."

Others in the cast include Tom Stam, Merrill Dodge, Mary Parker Williams, Leslie C. Barney, Gordon Johnson, John Gilbert, Robyn-Michelle Stepp, E. Linda Moore, Mark Dietlein, Mike Maxfield, Spencer Anderson, Sally Dietlein, Bob Bedore, Will Swenson, Laura Bedore and Kim Stone.

John and Tamara Williams are directing this season's production.

It plays Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Nov. 19 through Dec. 22, with matinees at 5 p.m. on Fridays and noon and 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets are $7 on weekday evenings and all matinees, and $9 on weekend evenings. Children's tickets are $1 less. Reservations are required and all tickets must be pre-paid.

The theater is located at 2801 S. Main, South Salt Lake. To contact the box office, call 484-9257.

- NATHAN HALE will portray Scrooge in the Hale Center Theater/Orem performances, being directed by Ruth Hale. This production isn't quite as strenuous as the Salt Lake run, because it's scheduled to run only three nights a week - possibly additional nights if there is demand.

The Orem cast includes several players who are familiar to Salt Lake audiences as well: Kurk Holshue, Linda Hale, Tanya Radebaugh, Cody Hale, Anne Swenson, Cody Swenson and Don Ostler, to name just a few, plus a sizeable bunch of Radebaugh and Hale offspring.

The show will run Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays from Nov. 23 through Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 on Mondays and Fridays and $6 on Saturdays, with all children's seats $1 less. Reservations are required. Call 226-8600.

Season tickets for both theaters' 1991 seasons are still available by calling 484-9257 in Salt Lake City or 226-8600 in Orem.