Bortle 8: free spirit in the sky
by Maura Stephens

April 17, 2015

Drunk Lion Productions


April 16-19

If you are drawn to the night sky but live in a city or suburb where much of it is washed out by the reflections from the artificial lights on Earth, you’ll understand the frustration felt by Chris Davis in his fascinating one-man show Bortle 8.

With nary a prop, using only his own body and a highly developed space substance technique along with a brilliant audio track, Davis takes us from outer space to deep below the ocean in a 75-minute stream-of-consciousness romp.

Heartbroken after the latest in a string of romantic breakups, his character decides to go on a quest for the darkest spot in the world, which would be a Bortle 1 site. He currently lives in the city of Philadelphia, which is a Bortle 8, where even bright constellations such as the Big Dipper are invisible to the unaided eye.

The titles come from the Bortle Effect or Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, named by astronomer John Bortle when he mapped the relationship between light pollution and astronomy to determine the best places to find a truly dark sky for stargazing. As Davis tells us, as recently as a few decades ago one could find truly dark skies not far from major cities. Today, however, there are few if any pristine skies visible from Earth.

During his quest Davis embarks on his ship of imagination, revealing personal peccadillos and longings, and a childish wonder at the universe and life on Earth. His gentle adventurousness and wide blue eyes endear him to the audience, with whom he directly interacts in a few places (not alarmingly!). He personalizes his tale, too, with direct references to Ithaca spots: Wegmans, Cinemapolis, the Commons, Fringe Central, and Cayuga Lake (filling in for the deep blue sea).

With an integral sound design by Adriano Shaplin, and directed by Mary Tuomanen, this is a thoroughly delightful show, and the Cinemapolis venue is a perfect fit. From here Davis will take it to the Pittsburgh, Capital D.C., Portland Maine Fringes, and then to the Edinburgh Fringe. The Ithaca Fringe is richer for it.

There is one instance of the F-word mentioned a few times. If you’re OK with your kid hearing it, I would definitely bring the children. It’s billed as Age 7+.  I highly recommend Bortle 8!