Six productions are opening along the Wasatch Front this week, ranging from Shakespearean and modern classics to an operetta and a Broadway hit, and the regional premiere of Stephen Metcalfe's highly acclaimed "White Man Dancing" (see separate story on this page).

- THE ZOO STORY, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee's first produced play (Berlin, 1959), will be presented Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 17-20, in the Lab Theatre of the University of Utah's Performing Arts Building.Matt Winters is directing the drama revolving around an unusual conversation between two men in Central Park on a Sunday afternoon.

Kris Nelson plays Jerry, who initiates a conversation with a conservative middle-aged man (Peter, played by Doug Cook). At first, Peter is annoyed by Jerry's abrasive intrusion, but soon finds himself drawn into the younger man's obscure life.

"The event of the play would have been more shocking in the 1950s than perhaps today," says Winters, "yet the play brings out a struggle familiar to many: following one's own path or trying to please others. The two men started with similar backgrounds and, through the course of life, end up in very different situations."

Performances will be Thursday and Saturday, Jan. 17 and 19, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. For reservations, contact the box office in the Pioneer Memorial Theatre building, 581-6961. The Lab Theatre is located in the Performing Arts Building, adjacent to the campus book store.

- HAMLET, one of Shakespeare's best known and most popular dramas, will be presented for 14 performances Jan. 17 through Feb. 1 in the Pardoe Theatre of the Harris Fine Arts Center at Brigham Young University.

(This will give Utah County theatergoers an opportunity to compare both the original and Mel Gibson's new screen version, which opens Friday.)

Guest director Michael Murdock, a professional actor and professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, is on sabbatical at BYU this year to work on his Russian, to do some Shakespearean work and to teach acting and play analysis. He has worked on 18 Shakespeare productions and says that while he loves the comedies and the histories of the bard, he is drawn more toward the tragedies.

"The tragic Hamlet I see is a young man growing up as a courtier, soldier, scholar - a Renaissance man," Murdock says. "He will not be indecisively cerebral because I don't see him that way. I find the fact that he struggles against the killer instinct to be evidence of enormous courage."

The director auditioned 200 people for the title role and from "four serious finalists" selected Jason Rasmussen as Hamlet. Rasmussen, known primarily at BYU as a member of the BYU Ambassadors, was chosen for what Murdock saw as "passionate and fiery honesty in his acting."

Also in the cast are S. Bryce Chamberlain as Claudius, Tayva R. Patch as Gertrude, Richard H. Raddon as Laertes, Merlin J. Bowen as Polonius, Cathleen H. Campbell as Ophelia, W. T. Badgett as Horatio, Ivan Crosland as the grave digger, and Lael Woodbury as the ghost of Hamlet's father.

Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays, except for a Monday matinee Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the drama ticket office in the Harris Fine Arts Center, 378-7447.

- COMPANY, Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical about a young single man and his relationship with five married couples, will be presented on four weekends during January and February by Opera West.

Director Neil Vanderpool's cast includes Tim Sutton, Angela Drahos, Kelly Hoover, Sheldon Worthington, Kathleen Reed and Jan Burgess Tanner, with musical direction by Randy Kempton and orchestra conducted by Merrilee Webb-Moran.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (Jan. 18-19 and 25-26 and Feb. 8-9 and 15-16) in the Wilkinson Center Memorial Lounge on the Brigham Young University campus.

The $8 admission includes a post-show dessert buffet at all performances. Reservations are suggested. Tickets are available in advance from the BYU music ticket box office.

The show is being co-sponsored by BYU Student Leadership Development, a department of Student Life.

- DANDELION WINE, Ray Bradbury's "theater-of-the-mind" piece about the days of yesterday when boys could take time to dream of tomorrow - or remember yesterday - will be presented Monday through Saturday, Jan. 13-19, in the intimate Studio Stage (Room 224) of the Chase Fine Arts Center.

Director Arthur Smith notes that "narrative theater is a unique approach that insists on a very fine balance between narrative description and dramatic impulse. It provokes the imagination of the audience and focuses solely upon narrative fiction for performance."

The use of multiple narrators makes the story flow, the director added. The story is set in 1928.

"For the audience, the story is a nostalgic journey," Smith said. "For Douglas Spaulding (the central character), it's a time of freedom and living - the first morning of summer."

All performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for senior citizens, youths and USU faculty/staff, and $2.25 for USU students with valid activity card. Seating may be reserved in advance with a credit card by calling the Smith Spectrum box office at 750-1657. Tickets will also be available at the door.

- THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, one of Gilbert & Sullivan's funniest operettas, will be presented Jan. 18 to Feb. 9 at the Heritage Community Theatre, Perry.

Robert D. Hunt is directing a cast of 25 performers.

Performances will be on Friday, Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for students (through college age) and senior citizens (62 and up), and $3 for children, 11 and under. Family and group rates are also available. For reservations, call 723-8392, Mondays-Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The theater is located at 2505 S. Highway 89 in Perry, just south of Brigham City.

- THE PRINCE OF PEACE, City Rep's free Sunday evening New Testament drama, has been extended for five additional performances through March 17. Written from a nondenominational perspective, the presentation is set during the Passover in Jerusalem at a gathering of close friends and disciples of Jesus, who reminisce about Christ's life and miracles.

While the production is free to the public, donations are encouraged to help fund actual costs of the performance. Reserved seating also is available in advance for $1 per ticket. Free admission (non-reserved) is provided at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 7 p.m. For reservations, call the City Rep box office at 532-6000.

Scheduled performance dates are Jan. 20, Feb. 3 and 17, and March 3 and 17.