John Lithgow Lily Rabe

John Lithgow toplines “King Lear” and Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater star in “Much Ado About Nothing” in New York this summer, with both titles lined up for the 2014 season of the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park.

The longrunning free theater program that launched at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater in 1962 has grown into one of the city’s cultural landmarks, attracting big-name thesps in recent years including Amy Adams, Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. Park productions have also yielded Broadway transfers including the Tony-winning revival of “Hair” and the Al Pacino-toplined revival of “The Merchant of Venice.”

Rabe (“American Horror Story”), who co-starred in “Merchant,” teams with Linklater (“The Crazy Ones”) for the revival of comedy “Much Ado.” Linklater returns to the park after starring with Jesse Tyler Ferguson in last summer’s “Comedy of Errors,” while helmer Jack O’Brien (“Hairspray,” “Macbeth” with Ethan Hawke) makes his Shakespeare in the Park debut with in the title.

The director of “Merchant,” Daniel Sullivan, will direct Lithgow in “Lear,” the latest in a spate of local “King Lear” revivals that also includes the recent Frank Langella starrer at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and an upcoming staging from Theater for a New Audience. (There’s also a London staging┬ádirected by Sam Mendes and starring Simon Russell Beale.)

“Much Ado About Nothing” kicks off Shakespeare in the Park’s 2014 summer season June 3-July 6, with “King Lear” set to run July 22-Aug. 17. Further casting remains to be set.

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