Curtain Up


December 3, 2013

Here’s something to try: tell your friends that you’re going to go see a puppet show about obsessive compulsion, and see what kind of responses you get. Indeed, The Pigeoning is a little unusual. The one-hour show, performed mostly sans dialogue, tells the story of Frank, a cleanliness-obsessed office worker in early 1980s New York who comes to believe that the pigeons in the park near his office are plotting against him and launches an investigation into what they might be hiding. It’s a bit like the TV show Monk with elements of Hitchcock’s The Birds mixed in. And then, of course, performed with puppets. If you’re intrigued, you won’t be disappointed. The Pigeoning‘s creative combination of skillful puppetry, meticulously designed props and set pieces, along with other well-utilized multimedia components such as music and video is engrossing. Creator and director Robin Frohardt has a solid artistic concept and the technical prowess to match. The result is a performance that is visually compelling, humorous, and earnest.

Village Voice


December 11, 2013

Pigeons go hand in hand with city life: its public spaces, its trash, its park-dwelling nutcases. Frank, an obsessive-compulsive office worker, is especially intimate with the latter; in fact, he’s one of them, convinced that the pigeons in the park where he eats his lunch are plotting an “interspecies conspiracy” aimed directly at him. His efforts to crack their foul (no pun intended) designs is the subject of The Pigeoning, a fiendish morsel of puppet theater created by Robin Frohardt through an artist residency with the Dream Music Puppetry Program at HERE, where it is running. At the controls of this batty battle of wits are five mischievous puppeteers, three of whom manipulate Frank, a toddler-size, middle-aged curmudgeon who walks, swims, and even flies with amusingly lifelike precision. His winged tormentors are iridescent plush balls that peck jerkily back at him from the end of trigger action sticks.


December 5, 2013

Despite their anonymous black fencing masks, the ninja-silent puppeteers in The Pigeoning aren’t the most menacing part of Robin Frohardt’s eerie, hilarious, apocalyptic puppet fable. Nor are the titular puppet pigeons, despite their weird preknowledge of the end-time to come; nor are the rising waters (played by a shiny piece of fabric) that will rise to cover us all. No, the most chilling element of this not-for-kids (but admittedly adorable) puppet nightmare is its evocation of nine-to-five office mindlessness, as portrayed by our bespectacled old hero, Frank, the neat-freak drone who peers out at us from behind Coke-bottle glasses. Frohardt’s beautifully realized work fully absorbs the audience from the start. We enter HERE’s miniature downstairs theater to discover safety manuals on our seats. A harried-looking fellow (Freddi Price) pops a tape into the clackety VCR, and we watch a pitch-perfect re-creation of an ’80s office safety video—part 1 of 27!—complete with a demonstration of how to properly label cords. By the time our A/V helper has retired to a miniature office set stage right, we’re seduced and delighted; Price (also the composer) strikes up the plaintive, inventive keyboard accompaniment for an audience already charmed.


July 12, 2014

Global warming, global war, gluten — there are plenty of things to be terrified of within the uncontrollable chaos of daily life. We can now add flocks of conspiring pigeons to the list thanks to The Pigeoning, a surprisingly touching piece of theater, unconventionally layered with far-fetched imagination and Bunraku-style puppetry. Creator and director Robin Frohardt brings The Pigeoning back to HERE Arts Center for a return engagement following its December 2013 run. Her intricately crafted puppet protagonist, Frank, wears the stern expression of many a bedraggled member of the modern workforce, not to mention a similarly apropos costume of high-waisted brown pants, ill-matching black shoes, and thick coke-bottle glasses. Plagued by obsessive compulsions, Frank sits at his desk attempting to read a thick binder labeled “Office Safety Manual” while he frenetically plucks tissue after tissue to scrub everything from the lip of his Styrofoam coffee cup to his spotless nameplate. His paranoia is sent into a dizzying spiral after a few chance encounters with some suspicious-looking park pigeons who may or may not be prophesying a biblical Armageddon.


July 15, 2014

The office safety manual is Frank’s most trusted companion. When he suspects pigeons of plotting against him, he seeks its advice. “If you’re asking yourself, ‘Is there an interspecies conspiracy against me and me alone?,’ the answer is probably yes,” the book opines, speaking to Frank in a soothing female voice. And, really, doesn’t the bird pecking furiously at his windowpane look like it might be part of a cabal? The Pigeoning, Robin Frohardt’s exquisitely rendered, very funny bunraku puppet play for grown-ups, has returned to Here, where it had a brief, successful run last season. Set to a score by Freddi Price, the hourlong Pigeoning is a tender, fantastical symphony of the imagination about a man who wants simply to be left in peace, to work at his tidy desk or eat a sandwich unbothered on a park bench. This is harder for Frank than it sounds, first because of the germs that keep breaking his concentration, forcing him to scrub them from his nameplate or his cup. And then there are the flapping, cooing, threatening birds, obviously angling after more than just his lunch. Dirt and disorder make Frank feel unsafe, so he asserts control by launching a gumshoe-style investigation. Phobias aside, he is no Adrian Monk.