After starring in several modern film adaptations of Shakespeare works, Julia Stiles will take a stab at the real thing this summer. The movie actress will play Viola in The Public Theater's Central Park production of Twelfth Night, directed by Brian Kulick.
Joining her as Maria, Olivia's crafty maid, will be the ever-busy Kristen Johnston, lately the bitchiest of the females in Broadway's The Women. Johnston appeared in Central Park a few seasons back in The Skin of Our Teeth—again as a conniving maid, Sabina. Johnston starred for many years in the sitcom "Third Rock from the Sun," co-starring with John Lithgow, who is now in Sweet Smell of Success.
Stiles made her mark in the 1999 flick "10 Things I Hate About You," a teenage version of The Taming of the Shrew, in which she played the Kate role. The next year, she was Ophelia to Ethan Hawke's Hamlet in Michael Almereyda's high-tech, dystopian version of Hamlet. Then, last year, she played "Desi" in Tim Blake Nelson's contemporary, high school-set look at Othello, called "O."
Stiles is a native New Yorker, born in 1981, and is currently a student at Columbia University, making a season at the Delacorte a convenient and attractive employment prospect.
Stiles follows in the footsteps of Helen Hunt and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, the last two actresses to play Viola in major New York productions. *
As reported earlier, instead of the customary two play line-up, the Shakespeare comedy will be The Public's only park offering in 2002. However, the play will have a longer run than usual. In the past, park plays have typically lasted about a month.
Kulick received sunny reviews for his Delacorte A Winter's Tale in 2000. The production featured Keith David, Henry Stram and Jonathan Hadary. Kulick has also staged A Dybbuk and Timon of Athens, among other works, for the nonprofit.
Last year, The Public presented one of the starriest summer line ups in its history. The season began with Measure for Measure, starring Billy Crudup and Joe Morton, directed by Mary Zimmerman, and ended with the headline-making Mike Nichols production of The Seagull. Among the cast were Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and John Goodman.
Variety reported that the Public hopes to stock Twelfth Night with more boldface names. The recipe of stars and Illyria has worked magic for the company in the past. Over a decade ago, the Delacorte saw Michele Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Gregory Hines and Jeff Goldblum play Olivia, Viola, Feste and Malvolio, respectively.
More recently, at Lincoln Center Theater, Nicholas Hytner directed Helen Hunt, Kyra Sedgwick, Paul Rudd and Philip Bosco in the comedy.
—By Robert Simonson