Theater;theater Mini-Reviews

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OPENING

* The Belle of Amherst - Round House Theatre. Tana Hicken stars as Emily Dickinson in William Luce's one-woman play. Through Sept. 14; 301/933-1644. Not reviewed.

* Comedy of Errors - Washington Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identity - the one with two sets of twins - inaugurates the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre. Through Oct. 5; 703/418-4808. Not reviewed.

* Noises Off - Olney Theatre Center. Michael Frayn's backstage farce. Through Oct. 5; 301/924-3400. Not reviewed.

* Skylight - Studio Theatre. David Hare's drama about political differences between former lovers. Through Oct. 5; 202/332-3300. Not reviewed.

* The Tempest - Shakespeare Theatre. Garland Wright directs Shakespeare's play. Through Oct. 26; 202/393-2700. Not reviewed.

NOW PLAYING

* The Big Slam - Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company - (TWO AND ONE-HALF STARS). High-speed self-empowerment and business jargon drive Bill Corbett's comedy about four people (two gentle souls and two barracudas) trying to get rich quick. The revenge plotting has the simplicity of a Hollywood anti-corporate yuppie satire (think of "The Secret of My Success," "Baby Boom," etc.). It's light and enjoyable, thanks to a quartet of actors who race through the amusingly egotistical language with the sort of conscience-free delirium that their characters - ever positive, if amoral - would call "focus" or "drive." Through Sunday; 202/393-3939.

* Hair - Studio Theatre SecondStage - (THREE STARS). Director Keith Alan Baker's exuberant staging of the 1960s "tribal love-rock musical" races through four rooms upstairs at Studio Theatre. The band is in a fifth room, half the actors make their first appearance on the roof, and half the audience sits on the floor. The free (and sometimes mischievous) use of space is in perfect harmony with this classic protest musical, and the young cast (which strips discreetly in the shadows for the famously controversial Act 1 climax) romps through the show in classic hippie style, full of fun and commitment. The production is, in a word, groovy. Through Sept. 14; 202/332-3300.

* Never the Sinner - Signature Theatre/Rep Stage - (THREE STARS). John Logan's drama about the Leopold and Loeb case - two young men who murdered a boy in 1924 Chicago just as an experiment - focuses on the powerful, naggingly inscrutable relationship between the young killers. Director Ethan McSweeny and his designers create an ominous black-and-white world dominated by frenzied newsmen and antagonistic lawyers (Clarence Darrow defended Leopold and Loeb). …