The Pigeoning

Frank works in a shabby office, with nothing but his own OCD and a rather talkative office safety manual for company. The expression on his face usually registers somewhere between bemusement and mild alarm. Frank is also a bunraku puppet and the protagonist of this 60-minute piece—a charming, often goofy, at times phantasmagorically frightening tale of one man’s obsession with common city pigeons and the secret messages they carry to us.

Writer/director Robin Frohardt always lets us know what Frank is thinking, which is rather a challenge because Frank is wordless (we do hear some expressively heavy sighs from him); a lot of the information about Frank’s emotional and cognitive states is the responsibility of composer Freddi Price. Doubling on laptop, Price’s sound effects are clean and crisp, and sometimes not quite what they seem.

There’s a lot of good straightforward puppetry here: a formidable trash monster, a hilarious set of venetian blinds with a mind of its own. Frohardt is not afraid to go a little meta, as well, as when Frank himself turns feckless puppeteer. But the core of this piece is Frank’s endearing personality (although I don’t think I’d want to share a break room with him), sometimes revealed by something as simple as the squeak of a highlighting pen.

  • The Pigeoning, created and directed by Robin Frohardt, composed by Freddi Price, Artisphere Dome Theatre, Arlington, Va.

This was my first (and very likely last) opportunity to visit Artisphere’s friendly Dome Theatre (the ceiling of which was used very creatively to register an underwater effect). Alas, the multivenue county-funded facility is slated to be closed later this year.