BORTLE 8 (Chris Davis): 60-second review

Terra Incognita: the unknown. You, like, don’t know what’s there. How do you prepare for it? You don’t. You can’t.—Chris Davis, BORTLE 8

Chris Davis performs BORTLE 8 on a South Philly rooftop. Photo by Jenna Spitz.
Chris Davis performs BORTLE 8 on a South Philly rooftop. Photo by Jenna Spitz.

Chris Davis has established a reputation in Philadelphia with a series of imaginative one-man adventures, which he’s since taken on tour across the United States and beyond. Staged this week on a South Philly rooftop as part of its own summer tour, his latest, BORTLE 8, takes us for a voyage on his ship of imagination, and it’s a hell of a trip. In the wake of a breakup Davis’s alter-ego embarks on a search for true darkness—BORTLE 8 on the scale of light pollution. The twisted travelog is like Bill Bryson on acid: rock climbing up stars, deep diving in the Delaware River with astronomer John Bortle (he of the eponymous scale), and discovering the barnacles of relationships past—with stops at Wawa, that brightly illuminated convenience store beacon.

“When I was a kid,” the character recounts. “I realized I could make any image I wanted with my eyes closed.” Davis’s skill lays is his ability to harness the wonder of this childlike imagination and ride it over a starfield of adult concerns. Director Mary Tuomanen keeps BORTLE 8 brightly choreographed, synched to Adriano Shaplin’s inventive sound design. But Davis’s stream-of-consciousness exploration of inner darkness and outer space twinkles with the freshness of a first reading. [1632 S. 4th Street] June 8-13, 2015;

Upcoming performances:

  • PortFringe Maine / June 2015
  • Capital Fringe Washington DC / July 2015
  • Edinburgh Fringe Scotland / August 2015

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