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


The works in "An American Sampler: Folk Art From the Shelburne" (at the National Gallery) are a delightful holiday treat, a Christmas gift of toys for adults as well as children. The pieces look like tiny ornaments on an old-fashioned yule tree, grown full-size. If art is taken to be an object that is beautiful, carefully handicrafted, imaginatively and individually designed, then this is real art.


Vladimir Feltsman, the Soviet e'migre' pianist who made his U.S. debut recently at the White House, will give a recital tonight in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Another highlight today will be the Choral Arts Society performing Mozart's great Mass in C and Rachmaninoff's "The Bells," this afternoon at the Kennedy Center. The Virginia Chamber Orchestra, with Andrew Litton conducting and William Steck as the violin soloist, will play tonight at the Sheraton Premier in Tyson's Corner and Tuesday night in the Washington Street United Methodist Church.

Sir Colin Davis will conduct the Dresden Staatskapelle in Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and Sibelius' Second, tomorrow night at the Kennedy Center. The National Symphony will present a pops program with comedian Sid Caesar as guest artist, Thursday and Friday nights at the Kennedy Center. Other orchestras performing this week will include the Montgomery Chamber Orchestra, Wednesday night at Strathmore Hall, and the Orquestra da Camara Brasilenåa, Wednesday night at the OAS.

The Washington Music Ensemble will continue its American Music Festival today in the Terrace Theater with the world premiere of a work by Janet Peachy and music by Zwilich, Kupferman and Persichetti.

Other noteworthy chamber music this week will include flutist Paula Robison, Friday night at the Wolf Trap Barns; the Contemporary Music Forum, tomorrow night at the Corcoran Gallery; violinist David Kim, tomorrow night at Strathmore Hall; the Charleston String Quartet, playing Bartok and Beethoven today at the Phillips Collection; violinist George Marsh and pianist Margaret Otwell, tonight at the National Gallery; violinist Maurice Sklar, tonight at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville; and the Friday Morning Music Club, tomorrow at the Friendship Heights Community Center and Friday morning at Strathmore Hall.


Last chance today to catch matinee or evening performances of the Chinese Festival of Song and Dance at the Warner Theatre; the American Indian Dance Theatre at Ford's Theatre; and the Adaptors Movement Theatre at Baltimore's Theatre Project.

The National Dance Company of Senegal, highly lauded in previous performances here, returns to the Warner Theatre Wednesday evening for six performances through Sunday night.


Barbra Streisand offers a bravura performance in "Nuts," a courtroom psychodrama about a prostitute who is fighting to prove her sanity. Streisand, who also produced and wrote the music, is teamed with a brilliant Richard Dreyfuss in this gripping but facile adaptation of the Tom Topor play. Streisand plays an antisocial call girl who killed a client, and Dreyfuss is the lawyer who takes her case and simultaneously psychoanalyzes her. She wants to be tried for manslaughter, but, at her parents' behest, the court is about to declare her mentally incompetent to stand trial. Dreyfuss, at first reluctant, becomes her champion in this painful and passionate crusade of inner truth versus outward appearances. Martin Ritt of "Norma Rae" directs a stellar cast that includes veterans Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach, James Whitmore and Karl Malden.


Two Monday night duos: Marti Jones and Don Dixon give it the rock edge at the 9:30 club, while local favorites Greg Arzner and Terry Leonino, better known as Magpie, finesse easy folk, jazz and blues at the Takoma Cafe.

Elementary rock, my dear Watson: Bo Diddley and Rolling Stone Ron Wood, at the Bayou on Tuesday.

The songs of John Cougar Mellencamp have grown increasingly personal and political, and increasingly effective. He's at the Capital Centre on Tuesday.

Call it a Wammie Showcase -- Mary Chapin Carpenter, GrazzMatazz and Cathy Fink, with a bucketful of awards between them, join forces at Gaston Hall on Friday.

When he's good, he's very, very good, maybe the best singer in country music -- George Jones, with the equally legendary Loretta Lynn, at the Patriot Center on Saturday.


Today is your last chance to catch "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" (at Arena's Kreeger), a strapping drama by August Wilson, currently America's most prominent black playwright. Set in a Pittsburgh boardinghouse in 1911, it shows us a generation of newly liberated blacks adapting to the realities of life in the industrialized north. And for its whimsy and spirit of gentle tolerance, "Harvey" (at the Woolly Mammoth) is worthwhile, even in this uneven production.