Shakespeare's Measure for Measure will be the first production presented by the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater in Central Park's Delacorte Theatre beginning June 5, Playbill On-Line has learned. Opening night is June 17. The production joins the already announced The Seagull, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, to complete the park season.
In Measure for Measure — one of the Bard's so-called "problem plays"— the Duke of Vienna seeks to return order to his city, now overrun with brothels and prostitues. He announces he will leave the city and appoint a virtuous Judge Angelo as the ruler. Secretly he disguises himself as a friar and watches as the supposedly moral man condemns young Claudio to death for getting his fiance pregnant, while Angelo seeks to exchange Claudio's death with a chance to sleep with the man's sister Isabella, who is about to enter holy orders.
Billy Crudup will star as Angelo. Also in the cast are Sanaa Lathan (as Isabella) and John Pankow (Lucio). Acclaimed Chicago-based, auteur director Mary Zimmerman will make her New York debut directing a work not of her own devising.
The 2001 season of Shakespeare in Central Park is sponsored in part by The New York Times, America Online, Penguin Putnam, TDI, and WCBS Newsradio 88.
* After reports that director Mike Nichols was looking at spaces such as Broadway's Booth Theatre, Off-Broadway's Promenade Theatre and non traditional industrial buildings, it was revealed in early February that the production has landed back at its originally announced location: the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.
Like in many a past Nichols venture, the cast will be packed with marquis names from the lead roles to the most minor supporting part. As first reported by PBOL on March 6, 2000, Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline will head the cast as Arkadina and Trigorin. Also in the cast, said the Times, are Natalie Portman as Nina, Christopher Walken as Sorin, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Konstantin, John Goodman as Shamrayev, Allison Janney as Masha, Debra Monk as Polina, Stephen Spinella as Medvedyedo and Larry Pine as Dorn.
Nichols, Streep and Kline have all been absent from the New York stage for some years. Though Nichols has "supervised" various plays, his last theatre assignment as director was Death and the Maiden. Streep, meanwhile, has been missing from the theatre for even longer. During the 1970s, she appeared in New York City stagings of The Cherry Orchard, Happy End and Taming of the Shrew. The winner of two Oscars, she was recently nominated for another for "Music of the Heart."
Kline has been slightly more faithful to the boards. Since taking the Tony for The Pirates of Penzance, he has appeared in Hamlet at the Public and, most recently, Ivanov at Lincoln Center Theatre.
Walken was missing from the stage for many years before returning in last year's surprise critical hit, James Joyce's The Dead. Janney, a theatre veteran now finding success on television's "The West Wing," last appeared on stage at the Delacorte as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew. Hoffman triumphed in a Broadway revival of True West last spring and recently directed Jesus Hopped the A Train, a success Off-Broadway.
Monk, last seen on the New York stage in Lincoln Center Theater's The Time of the Cuckoo, will star in Thou Shalt Not, the new Susan Stroman-Harry Connick, Jr., musical this fall. Goodman starred at the Delacorte a couple seasons back in Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth. Spinella, too, knows the Delacorte, from acting there in Troilus and Cressida. Pine recently starred at Primary Stages in Krisit.
Nichols' predilection for stars is well known. His late-'80s staging at Lincoln Center Theater of Waiting for Godot starred Robin Williams and Steve Martin as Didi and Gogo. Several seasons later, he cast Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss and Glenn Close in Death and the Maiden on Broadway.
The new Seagull began with a recent reading of Chekhov's classic held in Mike Nichols' Manhattan apartment, starring Streep and Kline.
The Seagull will begin performances in July or August of 2001.