It isn’t necessarily the Bard’s finest work that gets trotted out for free summer Shakespeare festivals. More often than not, it’s the lowest-hanging comedy, designed to be a warm-weather trifle for the sweltering public.
So it’s no small thing that for this year’s Shakespeare in the Park season, the Public Theater will be presenting King Lear, its first tragedy in five years. Stage and screen heavyweight John Lithgow stars as the benighted king, and Shakespeare in the Park regular Daniel Sullivan directs, and Harlemites are use to heavywieghts and Shakespeare since Orson Welles did Macbeth here in 1936. This is Lear’s first time on the Delacorte stage since 1973, though this will be the third major NYC production of the play this year: Frank Langella just closed a critically acclaimed run at BAM, and Michael Pennington will wail into the storm at Theatre for a New Audience next month. Still, in our opinion, there’s no such thing as too much of this grief-stricken masterpiece.
And don’t worry, comedy lovers: The season’s second offering is another one of the Bard’s best—the quick-witted Much Ado About Nothing, starring Delacorte standbys Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater as sparring would-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Rabe headlined in 2012’s As You Like It, and Linklater slapsticked his heart out in last year’s The Comedy of Errors. (The pair also co-starred in the Public’s 2010 production of The Merchant of Venice at the Delacorte.) Triple Tony winner Jack O’Brien (Hairspray, The Coast of Utopia) is at the helm (source).