"TOOLS ARE WHAT MAKE US HUMAN and allow us to build civilization; they make work possible; they make ideas possible," said artist Charlie Brouwer. His wood sculpture "He Always Carried His Ladder to the Job" is part of the mostly playful exhibit "Tools as Art V: Fantasy at Work," at the National Building Museum. The sixty-odd works come from hardware-lover John Hechinger Sr.'s vast art collection. Lucas Samaras's simple yet appealing silk-screened pop-art paintbrush starts the show, which encompasses delightfully obvious and odd works, and ends with Walker Evans's achingly compelling black-and-white photograph of a wrench.

--Nicole Lewis

At the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. Free. Through Jan. 9. 202-272-2448.


"NUTCRACKER" SEASON is upon us, and the first of the holiday productions to arrive on the scene is the Washington Ballet's time-honored version. New Director Septime Webre is sticking to tradition, with no surprises in store except for those found under the splendid Christmas tree in the Stahlbaum family parlor.

--Sarah Kaufman

At George Mason University Center for the Arts, Route 123 and Braddock Rd., Fairfax. Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. $20-$34. 703-218-6500. Also at the Warner Theatre, 1299 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Dec. 10-26. $25-$38. 202-432-SEAT.


PERCUSSIONIST TOM TEASLEY has been exploring various musical partnerships as this month's artist-in- residence at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Tuesday, Teasley will team up with South Italian tambourine virtuoso Alessandra Belloni performing ritual dances, songs and chants. Next Sunday, he'll present World Beat, his duo featuring singer-actor-griot Charles Williams. Teasley's also released a new album, "Global Standard Time," that mixes jazz standards by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane in evocative arrangements featuring classical guitar, Indian flute, trombone and indigenous percussion that underscore its world-beat impulses.

--Richard Harrington

At the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Tuesday and Sunday at 6 p.m. Free. 202-467-4600. To catch these performances in real time on the Internet, go to either or and follow instructions from there.


YEARS AGO, THE CUBAN-BORN PIANIST Juana Zayas recorded the Chopin etudes on a fairly obscure label. The usual logic says such a recording should have disappeared from the shelves within a few months or a year. This time, the usual logic didn't prevail. Zayas's recording is often cited as the most impressive traversal of those phenomenally difficult exercises available. It has been reissued, and although Zayas's career has remained less prominent than it should be, she is much in demand during the events this year commemorating the 150th anniversary of the composer's death. Zayas will perform an all-Chopin program, including the Sonata in B Minor, three waltzes and the Second Ballade, at La Maison Francaise.

--Philip Kennicott

At La Maison Francaise, 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW. Monday at 7:30 p.m. $20. 202-234-7911.


BING CROSBY CROONS "If You Stub Your Toe" to leading lady Rhonda Fleming in the 1948 adaptation of Mark Twain's comic fantasy "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." When the time-traveling modern American is mistaken for an evil wizard, song, dance and ludicrously overwrought pageantry ensue. The film is part of a series on the interaction between British and American culture in media. A 1967 episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies" about the cretinous Clampett clan's wacky adventures in London precedes the movie.

--Rita Kempley

At the Library of Congress's Mary Pickford Theater, Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. 202-707-5677.