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BACK TO BUSINESS <br> LOCAL THEATERS PLUNGE INTO NEW PRODUCTIONS

With the arrival of the new century this week Buffalo theaters will end their holiday hiatus -- and get down to the demanding business of preparing for the first productions of the new millennium.

Some productions will be on us very soon, as early as the first week in January. Others will open later in the month, and a few will appear in early February.

Alleyway Theatre, One Curtain Up Alley (852-2600). Michael T. Folie's "Naked Mole Rats in the World of Darkness," eight little stories of love won and love lost, some touching, some hilarious. A world premiere. Opens Jan. 27, continues through Feb. 20.

Buffalo United Artists, 884 Main St. (886-9239). Jonathan Harvey's "Beautiful Thing" tells the touching story of two teen-aged boys who, faced with divorced parents and horrid peer pressure, find solace in each other. Opens Jan. 21, .through Feb. 12.

Curtain Call Productions, Pfeifer Cabaret, 681 Main St. (685-0003). The Natale family presents "Don Juan in Hell," George Bernard Shaw's famous segment from "Man and Superman," in readers' theater format. Opens Feb. 11, continues through Feb. 26.

Buffalo Ensemble Theatre, 95 N. Johnson Park (855-2225). "Marisol," Jose Rivera's play based on the artist's life, opens as part of the Hands Across the City celebration. Opens Jan. 20, continues through Feb. 13.

Irish Classical Theatre Company, Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St. (853-ICTC). "The Emperor Jones," Eugene O'Neill's haunting play, rarely performed, about a ruthless escaped convict who is forced to face his inner demons. An elaborate production done in collaboration with the Paul Robeson Theatre. Co-directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti and Paulette Harris. Opens Thursday, continues through Feb. 13.
Kavinoky Theatre, D'Youville College, 320 Porter Ave. (881-7668). William Luce's "Barrymore," set in 1942, presents famous actor John Barrymore as he assesses his life near its boozy end. On stage to tackle Shakespeare's arch-villain, Richard III, and pushed along by a prompter named Frank, he launches into racy, funny and sometimes tragic stories. Directed by Robert Waterhouse and starring David Lamb. Pay-what-you-can preview Jan. 12. Opens Jan. 13, continues through Feb 6.

Theatre of Youth (TOY), Allendale Theatre, 203 Allen St. (884-4400). "Mr. Popper's Penguins," by Richard and Florence Atwater and adapted for stage by Timothy Mason, is a musical that tells the story of a house painter who turns into a vaudeville star in order to support his penguin pals. The penguins do a song and dance number. Recommended for children 4 and up. Opens Jan. 27, continues through Feb. 20.

Paul Robeson Theatre, 350 Masten Ave. (884-201 3/1 4 or 885-2590). "The Emperor Jones." See Irish Classical Theatre.

Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St. (Ticketmaster/852-5000). The touring version of the Broadway musical "Beauty and the Beast." Tickets currently on sale. Begins Feb. 1, continues through Feb. 13.

Studio Arena Theatre, 710 Main St. (856-5650). "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," Martin McDonagh's Tony Award-winning comedy/drama about the pathetic and horribly comic relationship of an old hag of a mother and her beleaguered daughter. Pay-what-you-can Jan. 9. Opens Jan. 14, continues through Feb. 6.

Summerfare Musical Theatre Company, Daemen Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst (839-8540). "Tapestry: The music of Carole King," revue featuring many of King's most familiar songs, including "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Up On the Roof." Opens Thursday, through Feb. 6.

Ujima Theater Company, TheaterLoft, 545 Elmwood Ave. (883-0380). Carlyle Brown's "The African Company Presents Richard III," about a troupe of black actors struggling in 1821 to get their production performed. Directed by Philip Knoerzer. Opens Feb. 4, continues through Feb. 27.