“Red Noses” might be set in 14th-century France, but don’t expect a fanciful costume drama or period piece. Even when it was first produced in 1985, “Red Noses,” whose story is set during the Black Death plague that rampaged throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, the play aligned with then-current events, and held a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic. Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s student production is set to mix the modern and the medieval, while bringing the farcical satire up to date.
“It has quite a modern look, there’s an ’80s punk rock thing going on,” says “Red Noses” director and Boston Conservatory at Berklee faculty member John Kuntz. “It has all these interesting modern twists within the medieval setting, but there are elements to the story that are very relevant today.”
Written in 1978 by the late, noted British playwright Peter Barnes (“The Ruling Class”), “Red Noses” is the story of a Catholic monk who decides to ease man’s suffering during the Black Death with laughter. He enlists a band of performers he calls the Red Noses to spread happiness and hope.
“Who doesn’t need some of that right now?” asks Kuntz. (Truth.)
Hope and diversity are two big elements for the Boston production: the “Red Noses” cast — 27 performers playing 40 roles — is historically largely male.
“We wanted to have as diverse a cast as possible, so many of the main roles are played by women,” Kuntz adds. “We have female priests and the pope is female. I wanted to include a lot of different voices on stage.”
As the story develops, though the monk assuages the Black Death blues, he fi nds the plague of greed and power a mightier foe. At the heart of this comedic satire, says Kuntz, is a sense of community.
“There is this sense of community among the clowns,” he adds. “The kindly monk has the clowns perform to give people hope. Then the plague ends and the story turns to satire and ridicules people in power.
“The play basically brings together ideas of art and community, and having a powerful voice against authority. Underneath this story of the plague, the message is one of kindness and speaking truth to powerful people.”
If you go
Dec. 7 -10 at 8 p.m.
Boston Conservatory Theater
31 Hemenway St., Boston
$25 – $30, bostonconservatory.berklee.edu