July 14 2010 12:00 AM

’Skungpoomery’ defines how bad theater can be

What were they thinking, the play selection committee at Lansing Civic Players?

“Skungpoomery,” LCP’s current offering, is by far the worst live theatrical production I have ever seen.

Rule No. 1 in the critic playbook is that a theater group should select a play that is either educational or entertaining, preferably both. Rule No. 2: Actors should offer something of interest to the audience.

“Skungpoomery,” by the late British playwright Ken Campbell, fails on both counts. The word skungpoomery — itself a made-up word — is intended to describe the process of making up other nonsense words because the words we use to describe ordinary things are, well, too ordinary. Really. If Roseanne Roseannadanna were around, she would probably say something like, “I could have died, it was so bad.”

Maybe if this production was pitched to the 7-year-old children of parents who were enamored of the wordplay of Dr. Seuss, and if the actors had all expressed crisp British accents to go with perfect comic timing, this play might have been on the brink of funny. Alas, this production lacks both of those characteristics.

Act One begins with a scene in which a mother, hearing a phone ring, picks up her hot iron, accidentally, and presses it to her ear only to burn herself severely. (And the point is?)

In scene two, the premise of the play is articulated: What fun to just make up words for things — shank-furbelling, chankenmattingly, and similar tomfoolery.

Here’s a word for what follows: wastingmyfriggintimekabob. This is the nonsense genre of live theater.

Not even the children present were laughing. There are nine actors in this production, none of whom is worthy of mention; call it the mercy rule that they shall go unnamed.

For those brave Lansing Civic Players loyalists undeterred by this humble assessment, buy your tomatoes now so that they can be ripe-to-rotten by next weekend when a second set of performances ensues. When pickles get thrown off the stage, it is an invitation to retaliate.


Lansing Civic Players 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday 2300 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing $10 (517) 484-9115