NEW YORK—The pigeon of the title is Eddy the Pigeon, an odd man (John Keating) who lives quietly in an isolated spot in Ireland in a trailer, ostentatiously named the Taj Mahal.
Content to live alone, he is, however, not entirely displeased to find an attractive young woman passed out in his garden. She wears a tutu and her head is adorned with a tiara. She seems like a fairy queen!
After bringing her inside, he chats on about various elements in his life, including his deceased mother and a pet rabbit. The young woman is unconscious throughout his chatter, so she can’t judge him.
When the young woman named Lolly (Laoisa Sexton, also the playwright) awakens, at first she threatens her unusual host with a hammer. She then calms down enough to explain that she’d been attending her bachelorette party in the nearby town, somehow became parted from it, and found her way here.
Not only is the trailer park some distance from town, it appears to be engulfed in a sort of time warp in which Lolly’s hip modernity isn’t in sync with Pigeon’s rather old-fashioned approach to life. In fact, by Lolly’s standards, he seems really “out of it.”
Another bachelorette (Zoë Watkins), who happens to be Lolly’s aunt, arrives on the scene, but it isn’t until Lolly’s fiancé, Josie (Johnny Hopkins), forces his way in that things get really heated.
Enraged by Lolly’s abandonment, he focuses his rage on the ever-conciliatory Pigeon. To Pigeon, every person is a fine fellow, except perhaps for the overweight priest who sat on his pet rabbit and crushed it to death.
Things hilariously go over the top, with the women seeming to take sides against Josie. Unforgettable is the expression of shock and embarrassment on Josie’s face when he mistakes a nonhuman object for Pigeon, and punches it in the face.
But it is John Keating’s show. He imparts almost a saintliness to the character of Pigeon, who has perhaps developed this persona as a defense against the cruelty of the outside world. How interesting to select a trailer park as his primary residence. Presumably there are wheels somewhere that would enable him to make an escape should things ever get too dicey.
Sexton fulfills the portrait of a young modern woman who just might have misgivings about the cold, routine path that contemporary life appears to be bent on pursuing. She becomes drawn to Pigeon and his way of seeing things.
Watkins’s less-concerned attitude indicates that her character adheres a bit more to the powers that run things now.
With these characters in mind, the play offers a gnawing thought. Looking beyond the nuttiness and occasional bawdiness of the proceedings, we might consider which reality is desired. Have we become bits in a computer-driven world? Are we to stop honoring the deep-seated knowledge that some things cannot be fully explained? That lie outside the reaches of even the most stringent scientific research?
In short, what is becoming of the human spirit? Where does spirituality fit in, in today’s complex world, where in many if not most societies, young children are fast becoming computer literate, often spending hours in front of a machine, pushing buttons?
Those of a positive outlook arguably believe that there are enough “Pigeons” in the world to set things straight. These are often called artists. Or dreamers.
In any case, playwright Sexton has performed a service in writing a play that offers high—or low—comedy on the one hand, and at the same time hints at a more serious matter.
‘The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal’
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 W. 22nd St.
Tickets: 212-727-2737 or Web.OvationTix.com
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (no intermission)
Closes: Dec. 31
Diana Barth writes for various arts publications, including New Millennium. She may be contacted at DiaBarth99@gmail.com