Is life a circle, a journey that keeps repeating itself? This seems to be the question the playwright is asking in this amusing play. Lady Kitty, who gave up a boring life with her titled husband to run away with a young adventurer, watches her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, about to do the same thing thirty years later. Can Kitty convince the younger woman to stay with her husband and avoid all the sorrow, pain and heartaches she has suffered? Late in the play the author appears to answer his questions by saying that it is not our choices that make us unhappy; it is our character. It is not what we do; it is what we are that is decisive. People with weak, trivial natures will be unhappy, no matter who they are with, or what they are doing. Instead of improving their character, they will always long for that someone or something or some place to make it all better. Those with stronger characters have a greater chance of happiness no matter what their choices have been.
THE CIRCLE (recently voted one of the 100 greatest plays of the last century by the National Theatre of Great Britain) has always been considered Maugham’s finest work for the stage. It was a public and critical success from the beginning. It grips and entertains to the very end and achieves a fine balance between comedy and deeper feeling. The characters are wonderfully funny and witty as they deal with scandalous behaviour. Their misbehaving, though set in 1921, is not unlike what one observes in society today.