Theater;theater Mini-Reviews

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OPENING * Better Living - Round House Theatre. The Silver Spring troupe returns to its favorite playwright, George F. Walker, in this "prequel" to "Escape From Happiness." Through Oct. 10; 301/933-1644. Not reviewed.

* Fixin' to Die: A Visit to the Mind of Lee Atwater - Church Street Theater. Bruce McIntosh returns in Robert Myers' one-man play about the late political strategist. Through Oct. 20; 202/265-3748. Not reviewed.

* Kaspar - Fraudulent Productions. The German experimentalist Peter Handke's postmodern drama gets staged by D.C. theater's only avant-gardists. At the District of Columbia Arts Center through Oct. 19; 202/728-7545. Not reviewed.

* Quills - Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Doug Wright's drama about the Marquis de Sade and the influence of his writings. Floyd King plays the marquis. Through Oct. 6; 202/393-3939. Not reviewed.

* Sweet Ike - Theater of the First Amendment. The premiere of Frederick Gaines' look at the American dream from the Eisenhower years to near the end of this century. At George Mason University through Sept. 29; 703/993-8888. Not reviewed.

NOW PLAYING

* After-Play - Olney Theatre Center for the Arts. Anne Meara's hit off-Broadway comedy makes its area debut. Through Oct. 6; 301/924-3400.

* Beauty and the Beast - Kennedy Center Opera House - (TWO AND ONE-HALF STARS). Disney tries to rewrite the book on theatrical spectacle with this stage version of the 1991 hit animated movie. Costume designer Ann Hould-Ward makes it possible for actors to sing and dance as candlesticks (with real flames), silverware, even carpets; other grand effects include a floating, fireball-hurling enchantress and a midair transformation from beast to handsome prince. There are some terrific songs and one fine dance as the cast clinks beer mugs in creative configurations. This is suitable for the entire family, but this staging of the tale of a beauty who gradually falls for an increasingly lovable beast is told with more dazzle than charm. Through Sept. 29; 202/467-4600.

* Blues for an Alabama Sky - Arena Stage, Kreeger Theater. Pearl Cleage's drama set at the end of the Harlem Renaissance stars Phylicia Rashad as a singer who's down and out but still dreaming. …