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Photos: Westport Country Playhouse's THE CIRCLE

Golden Globe Award winner and Academy Award nominee Marsha Mason and Drama Desk Award winner and Tony Award nominee Paxton Whitehead will head the cast of Westport Country Playhouse's scintillating comedy of manners, "The Circle," written by W. Somerset Maugham and directed by Nicholas Martin, playing June 7 - 25. "The Circle," the second production in The Playhouse's 80th birthday year, is considered Maugham's wittiest play, a seamless blend of romance and repartee.

Ms. Mason will play Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney. She appeared at Westport Country Playhouse in a reading of Michael Cristofer's "The Whore and Mr. Moore" in 2008. Whitehead, who has appeared at The Playhouse in many comedies, including "How the Other Half Loves," "Time of My Life" and "Relatively Speaking," will play Lord Champion-Cheney.

Many years ago, Lord Champion-Cheney was abandoned 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 as his bored wife is smitten with a handsome house guest. "The Circle" explores how history often is destined to repeat itself.

In addition to Ms. Mason (films "The Goodbye Girl" and "Cinderella Liberty") and Whitehead (Broadway's "The Importance of Being Earnest," "My Fair Lady" and "Noises Off"), the cast 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.

"'The Circle' is an illuminating and stylish comedy about the choices people make, their consequences and the generational aspect of those choices," said Mark Lamos, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director. "The audience is kept on tenterhooks wondering how the characters will choose to live the rest of their lives."

Westport Country Playhouse's five-play 2011 season: "Beyond Therapy," a wicked, and wickedly funny, look at the days and nights of the young and single, written by comic master Christopher Durang and directed by David Kennedy, Playhouse associate artistic director, April 26 - May 14; "The Circle," the scintillating comedy of manners, written by W. Somerset Maugham and directed by Nicholas Martin, June 7 - June 25; "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," a perceptive comedy about people struggling against their limitations, written by Terrence McNally and directed by Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director, July 12 - July 30; "Suddenly Last Summer," the poetic, sensual and evocative drama, written by Tennessee Williams and directed by David Kennedy, Playhouse associate artistic director, August 23 - September 10; and "Twelfth Night, or What You Will," the beguiling comedy/romance, written by William Shakespeare and directed by Mark Lamos, October 11 - November 5.

For more information or tickets, call the box office at (203) 227-4177 , or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529 , or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online 24/7 at Stay connected to The Playhouse on Facebook (Westport Country Playhouse), follow on Twitter (@WCPlayhouse), view Playhouse videos on YouTube (WestportPlayhouse)

Photos by T. Charles Erickson

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