Theatre Review: I Decide

Say, what are your plans for this Saturday?

Whatever they are, I bet they don't include a darling little 10-year-old girl saying the word "slut" over and over and over again. What about a standing ovation by a room full of people, in honour of you, or, better yet, woo-hoo'ing. Seriously, when was the last time you let out a real good woo-hoo?

Intrigued? Want to change all that? Head on over to 721 Queen West where I Decide has been billing itself as "a REAL Saturday night out" for three years this Saturday.

The brainchild of one Stuart Knight, the charismatic writer, director, producer and star of the show, I Decide is the story of a man trying to find himself or, in his words, "figure out everything that I'm not so that I can figure out everything that I am." The joyously schizophrenic musical delivers motivational missiles through sketches where theatre, video, song, spoken word, beatbox, dance and storytelling intermingle. Its campy, whimsical vignettes are as affecting as they are comical, and its never-miss-a-beat tempo means that you will sit there, mouth agape, for the entire two-hour runtime as happy, shiny people parade before you, urging for a revolt against complacency.

The aforementioned shiny, happy people (aka the cast) are knock-your-socks-off spectacular--the talented five-piece ensemble really carry the show. Knight himself is an onstage presence to be reckoned with, and his fearless approach to performance is admirable. One monologue, inspired by a broken heart, is particularly memorable, as Knight wields his verbal prowess to draw maximum emotional impact. His utterances plucked from the heartstrings a tear-tempting song. Lovely leading ladies Rachel Brittain, Devon Macdonald and Patricia McPherson are all vocal powerhouses to watch out for, while Emilio Zarris steals many a scene with his endearing frippery.

I Decide was born out of a motivational show Knight created for high schools and traces of these roots are apparent. The gems of wisdom dispensed are hit and miss and, at times, underdeveloped, lacking the context and depth befitting a post-secondary audience. A few abstractions are reminiscent of those motivational posters one would expect to get at a company Christmas party. You know the ones: a large snapshot of Mother Nature (a still lake at dawn, or the peak of Everest, perhaps), some inflated spark plug of a word in a tall, narrow, all-caps serif font ("perseverance" or "ambition" come to mind) and, beneath it, a stale inspirational clichĂŠ of the carpe diem variety. Other shrewd pronouncements teeter totter between being fortune cookie cryptic ("a stranger may have crept into your soul") and activating a Pavlovian instinct to roll my eyes skyward ("live your life in the moment because we're already in the next moment").

But, then again, it's easy to be a critic and a cynic. It's easy to brush off Knight's messages as prosaic inspiration. It's easy to settle back into the stability of one's own status quo. Accepting, digesting and then acting upon the messages of I Decide are infinitely more difficult.

After each performance--the show is performed weekly--a party is held in the loft space where I Decide takes place. Dubbed Friendship Slut Parties--the tagline being "lubrication for conversation"--the soirees are conceived to be refreshing departures from the same old tired bar scene. The organizers even guarantee that you will meet a dozen people at the affair (11 that you like and one that you'll never want to speak to ever again!)

Though I consider myself more tramp than slut, I stuck around for the party on the night I attended. I met people that night that had been to the show four, seven, even thirteen times, a bona fide tribute to its appeal. Self help harlots? Not quite - just ordinary folk happy to have stumbled upon a supportive, inspiring community to call their own. It gave me warm fuzzies.

Always upbeat and didactic, but never crossing the fine line to gimmicky and preachy, I Decide's charm lies in its unfaltering devotion to its dogma and earnest desire to spread its message of liberation. A frantic frolic through a Chicken Soup fantasy? Perhaps. A compelling dose of inspiration? Sure. At the end of the day, its the viewer's own state of mind that will determine his or her judgment of I Decide. Knight's desire to help others see their rainbow-coloured reveries to reality is noble, and his chosen method of doing so is, by turns, clever and stimulating. Go experience it for yourself - it's unlike anything you've seen yet.

What: I Decide: A REAL Saturday Night Out
When: Every Saturday at 8pm (doors at 7:30pm)
Where: 721 Queen West (one west of Bathurst)
Cost: $25 advance, $30 at the door
For more info, email or check out their website.
Psst: KnightFlight, Knight's production company, is putting on a free screening of the documentary The Secret this Sunday, August 27, at 8:00pm. To RSVP, visit the I Decide website and click on "Tickets".

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