Stage Beauty ★★ ½ 2004 (R)
Set in London during the 1660s, this entertaining but sometimes stiff drama centers on gender identity. Actor Ned Kynaston (Crudup) is renowned for his female roles (his Desdemona is legendary) at a time when women were banned from the stage. But that does not stop his devoted dresser Maria (Danes) from appearing in the same part in an illegal production that comes to the attention of flamboyant King Charles II (Everett), who is then persuaded that only women should now play female parts. This turn of events makes Ned's life a misery since he doesn't know how to play the man—either on or off the stage. Danes is somewhat mediocre playing a mediocre actress but Crudup is eye-catching as he plays vain, charming, desperate, and, finally, resilient. Adapted by Hatcher from his play “Compleat Female Stage Beauty.” 105m/C DVD . GE GB US Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin, Edward Fox, Zoe Tapper; D: Richard Eyre; W: Jeffrey Hatcher; C: Andrew Dunn; M: George Fenton.