Marsha Mason, John Horton, Bryce Pinkham and Gretchen Hall in “The Circle” at Westport Country Playhouse (T. Charles Erickson photo)
How traumatic must it be for a five-year-old lad Arnold to have his mother abandon him and run off with her lover? How uncomfortable might it be for that mother to return three decades later, invited by Arnold’s wife, for a long overdue reunion? How fraught with complications might it be if Arnold’s father should unexpectedly return to the family home minutes before his ex-wife makes her dramatic entrance?
Hold on to your Hepplewhite chair because there are many more surprises as W.Somerset Maugham reveals his witty comedy of society “The Circle” being delightfully charming at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, June 25.
Paxton Whitehead is the droll and distinguished Lord Clive Champion-Cheney who watched his wife Kitty dash off to Italy with his best friend Lord Porteous. He may have recovered his equilibrium but his son Arnold is still feeling the stings of abandonment. His effusive and gracious wife Elizabeth (Gretchen Hall) wants the family reunited, but Arnold is fixated on things like furniture and decorating rather than on people and feelings.
Marsha Mason’s Kitty floats into the elegant drawing room, designed in perfect taste by Alexander Dodge, in her full plumage. Her trusty lipstick is all the protection she needs to face what might be her most critical audience. While her husband Huey, a wonderfully cranky John Horton, follows in her wake as if she is the mighty ocean liner Queen Elizabeth I, Kitty takes command of the scene, like a captain to his crew.
With charm, Elizabeth welcomes her company while Arnold is a supreme fuss-pot, in the capable hands of Marc Vietor. Yet Maugham has an important history lesson to teach. The appearance of Bryce Pinkham’s Teddy, a determined and serious minded guest, will provide the catalyst for the ultimate entertainment. Nicholas Martin directs this scintillating scandal of a comedy with aplomb.
For tickets ($35-60), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online. Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday at 3 p.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesdays, June 15 and 22.
Stop for a spot of tea and scones at Aston-Adey, the Champion-Cheney country home in England, and get a peek behind the bedroom doors.
Marsha Mason and Gretchen Hall in “The Circle” (T. Charles Erickson photo)