I told Trey Tatum and Bridget Leak, the forces of nature behind Queen City Flash, that while I always look forward to their Fringe pieces I was a little concerned about ZOINKS! from the description. Would Trey, with his gift of poetic prose, somehow jump the shark by wasting his best words on a story billed as “Nancy Drew meets Scooby Doo?” I needn’t have worried; in fact, this show has less of Tatum’s flowing language than normal, but there are still a whole lot of words. Important words. Story-driven words.
It’s a multi-layered show, no doubt. There are still very serious undertones with themes of opioid abuse and dysfunctional families but there’s also the universal themes of bravery, love between a dog and his human, and some very important – and hysterical questions – get raised, too.
What blew me away, though, was the rapid-fire comedic lines and the brilliant use of the audience as additional cast members to tell this mystery story. There are flashlights – a trademark of Leak’s direction – and minimal props. Queen City Flash is known for their ability to put up a play virtually anywhere so the Art Academy classroom seems like a step up from the riverside or bat-infested buildings from before. The genius of this show is in the two actors – Tatum, who mostly plays a “semi-intelligent” dog named Casper and the underrated Jordan Trovillion, who plays “Nolan,” girl detective. Charismatic and well-prepared, they have lots of words to say.
And there are other words, said by various unsuspecting people in the crowd who are prompted – flash-style – by a notepad and a flashlight shoved in front of them. It’s really quite charming and not the kind of show where you wanna be caught checking your phone. That wouldn’t end well, I don’t think.
ZOINKS! is smart, outrageously funny, and well-produced. There’s a risk here – a lame audience could really drag it down. Luckily, Tatum and Leak have generated such goodwill over the years within the arts community (they are role models for how to use gifts and talents to change the world for good) that there won’t be any lame audiences. The shows will be packed, those in attendance will be game for whatever happens, and we all will continue to root for them. It’s a quality production made even better by the love in the room.
Do not miss this show.
ZOINKS! is part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Click here for information about the show and here for information about the Festival.