The Washington Post critics choose their favorite shows of the week.

ART "American Colonial Portraits: 1700-1176," at the National Portrait Gallery, is a definitive exhibition. And, since portraiture and American art were very nearly synonymous at this time, the show's sweep is wider than the title might imply -- it's a handsome encyclopedia of our cultural aspirations before independence. CLASSICAL MUSIC

The best American chamber music of the last two years -- works by Barbara Kolb, Todd Machover, Stephen Mackey and Gunther Schuller -- will be performed at a free concert this afternoon in the Terrace Theater in the finals of the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards competition.

One of the great highlights of last season will be repeated on Thursday when the University of Maryland's Handel Festival opens with Nicholas McGegan conducting the opera "Tolomeo" in an extraordinary production featuring student singers. DANCE

The New York City Ballet ends its memorable two-week visit with this afternoon's program at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

The Erick Hawkins Dance Company returns to the Terrace Theater after a two-year absence with a three-program retrospective of pioneer choreographer Hawkins' work, along with a world premiere, Tuesday through Saturday nights.

FILM

The calendar is counting down to Halloween and all month longthe American Film Institute has been running its Touch of Evil Film Festival to establish he proper mood. The festivities continue this week with screenings of horror classics, including"Rosemary's Baby," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Psycho." The plum of the festival, George Franju's rarely seen "Eyes Without a Face" will be double-billed with Kaneto Shino's "Onibata" on Friday. POP MUSIC

Most new sensations crossing over from England tend to be a flash in the pens of the British media, but there's a good stateside buzz on Terence Trent D'Arby, who's been compared to Prince via Sam Cooke. At the Bayou on Sunday.

Rock as raunchy fun and looney tunes: the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More, at the 9:30 on Tuesday.

"Luka" made her a star, but the songs of Suzanne Vega had established her as one of the fine new pop voices long before. She's at Constitution Hall on Wednesday.

Homegrown Trouble Funk spent the summer playing for huge outdoor crowds in Europe. Friday and Saturday, they're at the 9:30, which will be crowded indoors. THEATER

With deeds of political chicanery surfacing daily, the time couldn't be better to take another look at "All the King's Men," Robert Penn Warren's 1946 novel of the rise and fall of a Southern demagogue not unlike Huey Long. In a new stage adaptation by Adrian Hall with songs by Randy Newman, Warren's saga makes for pungent theater.