If you think those people in The Birds had it bad, just wait till you meet Frank, the nebbishy hero of Robin Frohardt’s puppet play The Pigeoning. Now running at HERE, this charmingly quirky spectacle follows a nervous office worker’s descent into madness, as flocks of pigeons whip him into a paranoid frenzy. It’s a fate you (probably) wouldn’t wish on your worst colleague.
Manipulated by three puppeteers in the style of Japanese bunraku, the bespectacled Frank trundles back and forth between a shabby office and a grim park bench. His pathetic interests include obsessive cleaning and perusing his beloved office safety manual. Soon, though, a nearby flock of pigeons begins to grow at an alarming rate, and Frank becomes convinced that an avian conspiracy is afoot — and that the birds know something he doesn’t. Soon our hero enters full-on counterintelligence mode, donning pigeon disguises and deciphering pigeon Morse code in hopes of preventing all-out disaster.
Frohardt’s gloriously imaginative visual world is the main attraction here, especially when it turns into a dreamscape with monsters emerging from garbage cans and birds sporting scuba masks. The plot proceeds slowly, and even at an hour The Pigeoning can feel long. But the creatures and settings are a delight, making this an oddly endearing piece that puppet (and pigeon) aficionados won’t want to miss.