It's the 1660s, and Edward 'Ned'
Kynaston is England's most celebrated leading lady.
Women are forbidden to appear on stage and Ned profits,
using his beauty and skill to make the great female
roles his own. But King Charles II is tired of seeing
the same old performers in the same old tragedies.
Since no one will take him up on his suggestion
to improve Othello with a couple of good jokes,
he decides to liven the royal palate by allowing
real women to tread the boards. In a slightly less
progressive spirit, he rules that men may no longer
play women's parts. This is good news for the monarch's
mistress, the saucy, stageuck Nell Gwyn. It
is also good news for Maria, Kynaston's lovelorn
young dresser who has been secretly performing at
a seedy tavern in lavish costumes borrowed from
her employer. It is very bad news for Ned, who plummets
from his exalted position as one of London's most
desirable females to become a virtual nobody, virtually
overnight. Cast out of the spotlight, Ned seems
headed for burlesque obscurity until Maria, now
a rising star, takes it upon herself to make a man
of him again.