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Stage Beauty

Genre: Drama/Romance/Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by: RICHARD EYRE
Produced by: Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, Hardy Justice
Released by:
Lions Gate Films

In Short: In 17th century London, Billy Crudup gets the chance to play Desdemona and Ophelia—until Claire Danes ruins it all for him. Now girls will be girls, or at least played by them... a hilarious romp!

Gender Bending Thespians
Cross Dressing in Period Garb Makes for Fab Eye Candy
By Julie Fay

In the 1660's, when women were barred from the London stage, there was one man who ruled the theater... as a leading lady. His name was Ned Kynaston, (Billy Crudup), and he played all the great Shakespearean female parts—Juliet, Ophelia—but he was best known for his portrayal of Desdemona.

When King Charles II (Rupert Everett) gets tired of seeing the same old plays performed by the same old actors, he suggests that they add a few jokes to Othello to liven it up. He also decrees that all female parts be played by women from now on, banning men from playing female roles. The theatre world, and naturally, Kynaston, thinks that women playing women on stage is preposterous—where's the art in that? He also sees his livelihood threatened.

Ned's dresser, Maria (Claire Danes), who's secretly in love with him, wants to be an actress and performs in an illicit tavern production of Othello. As her star rises, Ned's career is destroyed. Crudup gives an outstanding portrayal of a man who has lost his entire identity. Ned spent his life perfecting the moods and mannerisms of women and now there are no more roles for him.

Everett is hilarious as the buffoonish king who puts on bawdy private performances with his lusty mistress, and Danes' metamorphosis as a woman catapulted from the shadows into the spotlight mirrors her evolving performance from mediocre at the beginning to notable at the end of the film. Unfortunately, the cast is often lost in the inconsistent combination of absurd humor and serious drama. It isn't until the passionate scenes at the end where Maria manages to teach Ned how to be a man—and he in turn teaches her how to be a woman on stage—that the film really gets its footing And by then it's a little too late.

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