A new comedy at Brigham Young University and one of Eugene O'Neill's classics - "Ah, Wilderness," at the Heritage Theater in Perry, are among this week's openings on Wasatch Front stages.

-"HOLDING PATTERNS" - Mr. Meeks is in a holding pattern. He's trapped at an airline counter while attempting to catch a flight. His reservation has been lost, he misses connections and his name is not in the computers.While he waits, he encounters many people arriving and leaving the airport. His story and their vignettes form the basis of a new comedy with a twist by Reed McColm.

The play, "Holding Patterns," will open Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Margetts Arena Theatre at the Harris Fine Arts Center and continue Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 4. Also scheduled is a matinee Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. Tickets are available through the drama ticket office, 378-7447.

"What I initially observed was that every character is basically in a holding pattern," says director Traci Hainsworth. "They're going somewhere emotionally and mentally, but none of them actually lands or comes to a definite ending in his or her story except Mr. Meeks."

She explains Meeks' character as being "nice and responsible."

"He has always meant to reach out to help others, and on this day with constant emergencies and problems, he gets that chance. He leaves the airport a changed man: a meek, humble person, but not wishy washy. Behind his quiet and polite demeanor lies an inner core of strength from which he can draw."

Eight actors will play 33 different characters, which provided a challenge for Hainsworth, a graduate student using the play for her thesis project.

Starring as Mr. Meeks is Kim Colton, a graduate student. Other roles will be filled by Wes Anderson, Davis Cheney, Roger Merrill, Heidi Merrill, Kristen Walhquist, Jacqui Bennion and Kristin Shawgo.

The play premiered at Ricks College last year and was selected as an entrant in the American College Theatre Festival. Ricks was the only junior college designated for that honor. McColm graduated from both Ricks and BYU and makes his living as a playwright and script writer. Some of his scripts have been used for the "St. Elsewhere" television series, he has written extensively for actor Gordon Jump and he has productions playing both in New York and California.

"This is a wonderful script," says Hainsworth. "It's a tribute to Reed's characterization and writing skills that every part, even the brief ones, are fleshed into three dimensions."

Helping with the production is Cari Bertleson as assistant director and production stage manager; Lisa Wygant, scenic and lighting designer; and Wendy Maybee, costumer. American Airlines either loaned or gave BYU several items and furniture to provide an authentic feeling for anyone who has waited in an airport in a layover.

-"AH, WILDERNESS," Eugene O'Neill's gentle, humorous look at family life in 1906, is being presented Jan. 20-Feb. 11 in commemoration of the centennial of O'Neill's birth.

The original production opened in 1933 on Broadway with George M. Cohan appearing for the first time in a play he had not written. Two years later it was made into a movie with Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore and Mickey Rooney (the latter who also appeared in a 1948 remake entitled "Summer Holiday.")

The play was revived on Broadway in 1941 for 29 performances.

O'Neill once said that his purpose in writing "Ah, Wilderness," which was created in only five weeks after the idea came to him in a dream, "was to write a play true to the spirit of the American small town at the turn of the century. It's the way I would have liked my boyhood to have been. It was sort of wishing out loud."

"Ah, Wilderness," directed by Paul Burt, opens Friday and continues on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. through Feb. 11. The Heritage Theater is located at 2505 S. Highway 89 in Perry, just south of Brigham City.

The production is co-sponsored by a grant from the Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For ticket information, including group rates (minimum of 15 persons), call 723-8392.