The Argonaut

Remaining Performances (tickets available here):

Saturday, July 18 at 5:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 19 at 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, July 22 at 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 25 at 8:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 26 at 2:30 p.m.

They say: From the creator of solo-hit Drunk Lion comes a search for darkness in an age of artificial light. Bortle 8 goes from the depths of the ocean to the night sky in the hopes of finding the last untouched place on Earth.

Peter’s take: If you don’t know what a “Bortle 8” is, go outside tonight and look up. Astronomer John Bortle’s scale ranks the darkness of the night sky from Class 1, true darkness, through Class 9, a night sky obliterated by the light pollution at the center of a megacity. A night sky of Bortle 8 might be what one would see in Ithaca, Pittsburgh, or Portland, Maine—the other stops Chris Davis has made so far on his Fringe Festival tour, making a late debut at Capital Fringe before heading on to the heart of the Fringe universe in Edinburgh.

Somewhat confusingly, Davis means “Bortle 8” as Bortle 1—he is searching for true darkness, Class 8 on the similar naked-eye limiting magnitude scale—and Bortle himself corrects Davis at one point in Davis’s 55-minute one-man show.

Bortle 8 is a small show about big things. Inspired by Paul Bogard’s 2013 book The End of Night, about the quest for an unsullied night sky in the age of light pollution, Davis sets out to find the unpolluted place within himself, “the parts of ourselves that are untainted by mental pollutions like depression, relationships, and misunderstandings.”

The show takes place on the tiny stage on the second floor of The Argonaut, a playing space not much larger than a roomy closet, but it suits Davis well. Davis is an intimate performer who takes pains to make eye contact with audience members and immerse them in his personal journey.

His efforts to interact with attendees had mixed results, and the Philadelphia performer’s inclusion of a few D.C. references seemed artificial. But when he stuck to the monologue itself, Davis kept our attention.

Davis opens with a reflection on gazing at the night sky, selecting a star, and wondering who else might have spied that same glimmer: Christopher Columbus, maybe, or even the Australopithecus known as Lucy who lived three million years ago. From there, he journeys inside his own imagination, meeting the spirit of Bortle as a guide.

What Davis finds as he approaches Bortle 8 (or 1) is less than profound. It’s the stuff of past romances gone awry and the ups and downs of his childhood in California. But despite its bumps, the trip along the way is an interesting, if not always illuminating, one.

See it if: You would enjoy a ride into inner space.

Skip it if: You’re afraid of the dark.

Photo courtesy of Chris Davis