Rosenberger Hosts Puppeteers

Alexander Drucker, Desk Co-Editor of Copyediting, Staff Writer

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On Friday, November 9th, Robin Frohardt presented her play “The Pigeoning” in Rosenberger Auditorium.

The play centers around Frank, a desk jockey in an unnamed dreary office building. The opening scene portrays about as much about the character as the audience needs to know: Frank reads through his office safety manual (voiced by a dreadfully cheerful woman offstage) at his desk while occasionally stopping to clean his name plate. As Frank becomes more distressed by his unclean name plate, the office safety manual reflects his feelings. Finally, the manual tells Frank that his name plate is dirty and that he must clean it. Frank tears the name plate in half, throws it away, and replaces it with a fresh one—which he immediately cleans with a tissue. For the obsessive-compulsive viewer, these moments are scarily familiar.

Frank’s mental condition only becomes clearer as he convinces himself of an interspecies conspiracy against him involving pigeons. He painstakingly documents these pigeons by recording them on video, disguising himself as a pigeon, and translating the pigeons’ pecking into Morse code. While it can be saddening to watch the  protagonist’s delusions unfold, the play never neglects to a good joke out of it: Frank’s failed efforts are always  followed by sneaky pigeons in diver helmets in the background or the bumbling destruction of his own office.

The experience—highlighted by an original score based in everything from noir jazz to discordant percussion—descends from mundane oddity to the downright surreal, with scenes of Frank stacking coffee cups in his office beside others of trash can monsters and floating question mark montages. This juxtaposition drops the audience right into Frank’s confused mind.

Besides the surrealism and the humor, the play’s true strength is its puppetry. Frank and all of the pigeons and creatures are controlled by hooded puppeteers. They fluidly move the characters and sets across the stage so that one could forget they were even there. One scene in which Frank was drifting through a sparkling sheet ocean among pizza box manta rays was particularly skillful and gorgeous.

Although one could forget the existence of the puppeteers on stage, watching them was an experience in and of itself. They cradled the Frank puppet, which is probably how the character would have wanted to be held in his situation. It is evident in the character development and in the delicate medium of puppetry itself that Frohardt put much love into Frank and his little world, making for a show with many poignant moments among the strange.