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Next at Westport Playhouse: 'The Circle'

Published 4:36 pm, Thursday, May 26, 2011
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Golden Globe Award winner Marsha Mason and Drama Desk Award winner Paxton Whitehead head the cast of Westport Country Playhouse's production of "The Circle," W. Somerset Maugham's comedy of manners opening June 7.

Directed by Nicholas Martin, the play blends romance and repartee, and many critics consider it Maugham's wittiest.

The show is the second of the Playhouse's 80th season and will run through June 25.

Academy Award nominee Mason will play Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney. She appeared in the Playhouse's reading of Michael Cristofer's "The Whore and Mr. Moore" in 2008.

Tony Award nominee Whitehead will play Lord Champion-Cheney. He has appeared in many Playhouse comedies, including "How the Other Half Loves," "Time of My Life" and "Relatively Speaking,"

In the play, Lord Champion-Cheney was abandoned many years earlier by his wife, Lady Catherine, who ran off to Italy with her lover. Bringing matters full circle, his stuffy son Arnold is now involved in a love triangle of his own -- his bored wife is smitten with a handsome house guest. "The Circle" explores how history often is destined to repeat itself.

Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director, called "The Circle" a "stylish comedy about the choices people make, their consequences and the generational aspect of those choices.

"The audience is kept on tenterhooks wondering how the characters will choose to live the rest of their lives," he said in a news release put out by the Playhouse.

Mason's films include "The Goodbye Girl" and "Cinderella Liberty." Whitehead's Broadway credits include "The Importance of Being Earnest," "My Fair Lady" and "Noises Off."

The cast also includes Gretchen Hall (Shakespeare on the Sound's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Comedy of Errors") as Elizabeth; John Horton (Broadway's "A Touch of the Poet," "Noises Off," "Kiss Me Kate," "Amadeus") as Lord Porteous; James J. O'Neil (Broadway's "Present Laughter") as Butler; Bryce Pinkham ("Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson") as Edward Luton; Christina Rouner (Broadway's "Coram Boy") as Mrs. Shenstone; and Marc Vietor ("Present Laughter," "Grey Gardens") as Arnold Champion-Cheney.

Martin previously directed the Playhouse's "The Substance of Fire" and "A Cheever Evening." On Broadway, he directed "Present Laughter," "Butley," "Match," "Hedda Gabler," "The Rehearsal" and "You Never Can Tell.

He is the former artistic director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival and Boston's Huntington Theatre Company.

Playwright Maugham was one of the 20th century's most prolific and varied writers. Among his works are "Of Human Bondage," "The Moon and Sixpence," "The Painted Veil," "The Razor's Edge" and "The Constant Wife."

The design and production team includes Alexander Dodge (Westport Country Playhouse's "The Archbishop's Ceiling," Broadway's "Present Laughter," for which he received a 2010 Tony Award nomination), scenic design; Gabriel Berry (premieres by Charles Ludlam, Mabou Mines, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, John Guare), costume design; Philip Rosenberg (Westport Country Playhouse's "I Do! I Do!"), lighting design; Drew Levy (Broadway's "The Importance of Being Earnest," "Present Laughter"), sound design; Louis Colaianni, dialect coach; Jason Kaiser, production stage manager; Kevin Robert Fitzpatrick, assistant stage manager; and Janet Foster, C.S.A., casting.

The remainder of the Playhouse season includes: "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," July 12- 30; "Suddenly Last Summer," Aug. 23 to Sept.10; and "Twelfth Night, or What You Will," Oct. 11 to Nov. 5.

For more information or tickets, call the box office at 203- 227-4177 (toll-free at 1-888-927-7529) or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online at www.westportplayhouse.org.