Actors' Theatre of Columbus will take on a significant - if occasionally overlooked - piece of work co-written by local writer and humorist James Thurber.

Actors' Theatre of Columbus will take on a significant - if occasionally overlooked - piece of work co-written by local writer and humorist James Thurber.

"The Male Animal," written by Thurber and Elliott Nugent, both alumni of Ohio State University, will be performed on various dates throughout April at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave.

The play is set at a college in a Midwestern town that looks suspiciously like Columbus. English professor Tommy Turner, to be played by Jeff Potts, wants to read a controversial letter to his class, something that lands him in hot water with the conservative trustees, who threaten to fire Turner if he doesn't change his mind.

Even his wife Ellen Turner (Elaine Taylor) begs him to reconsider, which makes the professor even more determined to defend what he sees as a free-speech issue.

To further complicate matters, Ellen Turner's old boyfriend and football hero Joe Ferguson (Shane Egan) shows up, stressing the relationship between the husband and wife.

"It's a comedy but it has serious issues," said John S. Kuhn, artistic director of Actors' Theatre. "It looks at freedom of speech and relationships and intertwines them. One of the main things it looks at is the whole struggle between male and female and trying to live in some kind of harmony with each other."

Dee Shepherd will direct the production.

Performances are slated at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, April 7-16, and 2 p.m. Sundays, April 10 and 17. Tickets are $20, with discounts available for larger groups.

Tickets may be purchased at www.theactorstheatre.org or at the door.

Taylor, who will make her debut with Actors' Theatre with the upcoming performance, said the play has a timeless quality, dealing with issues of jealousy, stubbornness, conflict and divergent politics.

"People deal with this every day, so people can relate," she said.

Egan, who is taking on the role of Joe Ferguson for the first time, said the chemistry among the lead actors is incredible.

"I think it was remarkably well-cast," he said.

"The Male Animal" was later remade into a movie released in 1942 starring Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Leslie.

Kuhn said because it's a period piece, "The Male Animal" is not often performed.

"Unless you know James Thurber and read a lot of his works, it's one of those plays that can easily fall off the radar," he said.