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The "Christmas crunch" is winding down. Only five new stage productions are scheduled to open this week (compared to 34 openings during the past four weeks). The emphasis in mid-December is on light-hearted comedy fare, including the revival of TheatreWorks West's enchanting "A Child's Christmas in Wales" (paired with a one-act operatic take-off on the Cinderella fable) and the premiere of a new "Star Trek" parody by Bob Bedore.

Tom Behrens, who performed at the Salt Palace Little Theatre a year ago, is bringing Patrick F. McManus' "A Fine and Pleasant Misery" back to town, and the Draper Theatre is reviving a perennial holiday favorite, "The Rented Christmas."A drama/comedy, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," will open Kent Bateman's Actors Repertory Tele-Theatre winter season in Park City at Wolf Mountain.

- "STAR TWEK: THE SEARCH FOR SPOOF!" officially kicks off the Off Broadway Theatre's first season. The all-new adventure comedy pits the crew of the Starship Boobyprize against its toughest enemies.

Some of the region's best-known comic actors will star in the show, including Eric Jensen as Capt. James T. Smirk, author Bob Bedore as pointy-eared Mr. Schlock, Kimberlee Hart as Lt. Ohyoohoo and Russ Peacock as Bjorn Borg. Also in the cast are Ben Porter, Mark Probert, Mellisa Porter, Gerry Graves and Sanford Porter - many of whom have been performing in the Off Broadway's recent "improv" program, "Quick Wits."

The show will not only parody "Star Trek," but also poke fun at such films and TV series as "Casablanca," "Fantasy Island," "M*A*S*H," "Dirty Harry" and the Three Stooges.

"Star Twek: The Search for Spoof" opens Friday, Dec. 16, and continues on Mondays and Thursdays-Sundays at 7:30 p.m. through Jan. 28. The Dec. 17 performance is sold out. All seats are reserved. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children, 12 and under. The theater is located at 272 S. Main. For reservations, call 355-4628.

Bedore notes that, due to the popularity of the "Quick Wits" revue, arrangements are being made to return it to the Off Broadway's schedule sometime during December. He added that there are several public parking garages and lots within one block of the theater, and parking on the streets is free after 6 p.m.

- THEATREWORKS WEST is reviving its nostalgic and poignant one-act production from last season - a theatrical version of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales" - and pairing it with a hilarious one-act opera/parody, "Cinderella, or The Shoe Must Go On."

Teresa Sanderson is directing both productions, with Joe Pitti as choreographer and Audrey Terry, who composed original music for TWW Artistic Director Fran Pruyn's adaptation of Thomas' book, as musical director.

The ensemble includes Barb Gandy, Gary Anderson, Diana Biller, Mary Bishop, Annie Draper, Kathy Feigal, Gretchen Krebs, Jeff Owen, Vickie Pugmire, Jerry Rapier and Chris Smith.

"A Child's Christmas in Wales" relates a young boy's memories of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a small Welsh home. "Cinderella . . . " was scripted and scored by Californian Brad Carroll. Familiar musical themes from opera, musicals, movies and television are blended together with humorous lyrics.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 15-17; Thursday-Friday, Dec. 22-23, and Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 29-31, and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 24 and 31, and 7 p.m. Dec. 18, in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts, 1250 E. 1700 South (lower campus of Westminster College).

Tickets are $10 each for adults, $8 for students and senior citizens and $5 for children 12 and under. For reservations, call 583-6520.

- "THE RENTED CHRISTMAS," the story of a lonely man whose choices are to rent a Christmas family or spend his time alone, will be presented Dec. 16-17 and 19-23 at 7 p.m. at the Draper Theater, 12366 S. 900 East.

Directed by Nancy McFall, the cast includes Danny Thorn, Morgan Garrett, Kevin Davis and Sherry Hansen in leading roles.

Admission is $5 and $7 for adults and $3 for children 11 and under. For reservations, call 572-4144.

- "A FINE AND PLEASANT MISERY," based on Patrick F. McManus' hilarious stories - and re-enacted by actor Tim Behrens in a one-man show - is being brought back to Salt Lake City for two performances on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 16-17, at Highland Park Elementary School.

Behrens, who received critical and audience acclaim when he performed the show at the Salt Palace Little Theatre in October of 1993, will portray 10 characters from the prolific author's books - Rancid Crabtree, Crazy Eddie Muldoon,the Troll and Henry P. Grogan, in addition to assorted dogs and other wild animals.

The press material for the show contains this disclaimer: "All 10 characters portrayed by Behrens in the show are fictional. ANY resemblance to persons you know is coincidental - and should be cause for considerable alarm."

McManus' books include "They Shoot Canoes, Don't They?", "Never Sniff a Gift Fish," "Real Ponies Don't Go Oink" and his latest, "How I Got This Way."

The production is not merely a dramatic reading. It's a full two-act play that introduces new stories and recounts classic McManus tales, including the proper form of panicking (as taught by an expert), how to brush the taste of dog off your teeth and what happens when you go hunting for your first deer with nothing more than a bicycle.

Performances of "A Fine and Pleasant Misery" will be on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 16-17, at 8 p.m. at Highland Park Elementary School, 1738 E. 2700 South. Admission is $11 for adults and $7 for youths, 12 and under. Tder. Tickets are available at Sam Weller's Bookstores and all Smith's Tix outlets (call 1-800-888-8499 (TIXX).

Patrick McManus will also hold book-signings at several sites this week, including Dec. 16 from noon to 1 p.m. at Sam Weller Books, 254 S. Main, and on Dec. 17 from noon to 2 p.m. at Deseret Book, 1113. Fort Union Blvd., and from 4 to 5 p.m. at Deseret Book in the ZCMI Center Mall, downtown.

- ACTOR'S REPERTORY TELE-THEATRE'S winter season begins at Wolf Mountain's Avalanche Theatre with a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, David Mamet. "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," is a critically acclaimed and provocative comedy/drama that opened Dec. 10 and will play through Dec. 14th and then become part of ART's repertory season to return several times throughout the winter. Alternating with "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" will be the one-man show by comedian Stephen Kuiser, "The Last Piece on My Mind" and an evening of three one-act comedy/dramas titled "Benches."

"The Last Piece on My Mind" will open Dec. 15 and "Benches" wil open Dec. 20.

Actor's Repertory Tele-Theatre begins with dinner at 7 p.m. each evening and the show starts at 8:15. Following the dinner show each night, the theater is converted into a night club setting featuring comedians and the music of Tom Monroe and "Andelin." For ticket information and reservations, call 649-0300.