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Humble Maria (Claire Danes), who outfits top London theater star Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup), takes none of the credit for the male actor's success at playing women. And because this is the 17th century, Maria, like other females, is prohibited from pursuing her dream of acting. But when powerful people support her, King Charles II (Rupert Everett) lifts the ban on female stage performers. And just as Maria aided Ned, she needs his help to learn her new profession.