Rated 2.0

Ends tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 23. This lunk-headed production got a lot of negative press before it was even released, owing mainly to its resurrecting the thoroughly discredited notion that the works of William Shakespeare were actually written by someone else (one Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, in this case). This version’s Shakespeare (played by Rafe Spall) is a loutish actor and nitwit opportunist who takes advantage of de Vere’s need to remain anonymous and claims authorship for himself. But that is almost beside the point in this grotesque, semi-coherent costume drama set during the reign of Elizabeth I. Speculative fiction about the political and literary culture of Elizabethan England is one thing, and the mean-spirited debunkery of this overlong travesty is quite another. Apart from de Vere (a miscast Rhys Ifans) and poet/playwright Ben Jonson (a skittish Sebastian Armesto), nearly everyone involved gets portrayed in some form of rancid caricature. The conniving courtiers William and Robert Cecil (David Thewlis and Edward Hogg) probably have it coming, but in the rogue’s gallery concocted by writer John Orloff and director Roland Emmerich, all the big names (the Earls of Essex and Southampton, playwright Christopher Marlowe, the younger Cecil, etc.) are portrayed with the same morbidly sophomoric cynicism that is visited on the Bard of Avon. Pageant Theatre. Rated PG-13