The Delacorte Theatre is transformed into the mythical land of Illyria beginning June 25, when the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater summer staging of Twelfth Night begins in Central Park.
The biggest names in the talent-filled cast include Julia Stiles as Viola, Kristen Johnston as Maria, Christopher Lloyd as Malvolio, Oliver Platt as Sir Toby Belch and Jimmy Smits as Orsino. Also in the cast are Zach Braff as Sebastian, Kathryn Meisle as Olivia and Michael Stuhlbarg as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Craig Baldwin, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Sterling Brown, Bill Buell, Al Espinosa, Natalie Gold, Kevin Isola, Paul Kahn, Peter Katona, Doan Ly, Andrew McGinn, Michael Potts and John Livingston Rolle complete the cast. Brian Kulick directs.
The show will run June 25-Aug. 11. Opening is July 18. In a change with tradition, Twelfth Night is the Public's only park offering this year. The theatre's strained, post-Sept.11 economic situation influenced the decision to cut back.
The show will have scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Miguel Angel Huidor, lighting design by Michael Chybowski and original music by pop singer and Spring Awakening composer Duncan Sheik.
Meisle has appeared with regularity on New York and regional stages. Her most recent credit was the premiere of Eric Bogosian's Humpty Dumpty at the McCarter Theatre. At Lincoln Center Theater, she acted in Wendy Wasserstein's Old Money and David Hare's Racing Demon. At the Roundabout Theatre Company, she was seen in London Assurance. Before becoming one of the more busy character actors in films ("Flatliners," "Married to the Mob," "Indecent Proposal," "Bulworth"), Platt performed in such New York plays as Ubu at Lincoln Center Theatre and Jules Fieffer's Elliot Loves at the Promenade.
Lloyd, known for his television work in "Taxi" and film roles in "Back to the Future" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?," recently returned to the Broadway stage in the acclaimed revival of Morning's at Seven.
Stuhlbarg and Kulick have worked together before: The latter cast the actor in his Central Park Winter's Tale in 2000. Last season, Stuhlbarg was seen on Broadway in The Invention of Love.
Johnston, lately the bitchiest of the female characters in Broadway's The Women, 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 recently won the Tony Award for Broadway's 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.
The Delacorte is accessible from Central Park's 79th Street entrance at Fifth Avenue and the 81st Street entrances on Central Park West. Theatregoers can pick up free tickets on the day of the performance beginning at 1 PM at the Delacorte Theater, or from 1 to 3 PM at The Public Theater. This summer, the Public will again distribute tickets in each of the five boroughs on selected dates. For information call (212) 539-8750.
—By Robert Simonson