By Gina Martinez
If a play about the plague in 14th-century France sounds like your idea of a good time, then get yourself to the Secret Theatre for Nicu’s Spoon Theater Co.’s production of “Red Noses.”
Peter Barnes’ 1978 play, first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Co. in 1985, centers around a priest, Father Flote, who travels through Black Death-ravaged Europe with a band of fools, named God’s Zanies, to offer his own brand of healing — laughter.
Oh, yeah, did we mention it’s a comedy?
“People will be surprised by how hysterically funny it is,” Director Stephanie Barton-Farcas said. “It’s irreverent and manages to offend everyone, yet make them laugh at the same time.”
The play, which earned Barnes an Olivier Award — London theater’s version of the Tonys — has been updated for the Secret production and is now set in modern-day New York City.
“It was written 30 years ago, so some of the references were dated,” Barton-Farcas said, “but the over-arching themes are still relevant now.”
Barton-Farcas’ version still follows the journey of a priest, but instead of the plague, he finds himself dealing people suffering from AIDS, Ebola and measles.
The priest believes if he and his band of fools can make someone laugh while they are in the throes of death, that person can die happy.
The change into modern times wasn’t too difficult for Barton-Farcas because a lot of the themes still translate into modern times.
A lot of ideas about religion have not really changed that much, Barton-Farcas said.
And she believes people today, no matter their ages, races or backgrounds, still come together in times of crisis.
“New York City knows about tragedy and the play explores how people discover themselves in those tough times,” Barton-Farcas said.
According to Barton-Farcas, audiences can expect to laugh their way through a play that deals with tough issues with humor.
“It has a lot to say about government, separation of church and state, the 1 percent, the haves and haves not, poverty and the way we treat each other,” she said. “During rehearsals, even though I’ve read the play a billion times, it still manages to make me cry laughing. It’s hysterical.”