The fine British-pub tradition of "A Play, A Pie, and A Pint" continues with Tiny Dynamite's productions as this generous theater company dispenses, for the $15 price of admission, mulled wine and mince pies — both delish. Would that I could say that about the play, Bortle 8, written by Chris Davis and directed by Mary Tuomanen: It is both tasteless and indigestible.
The odd word in the title comes from the name of the Bortle Dark Sky Scale, which measures darkness for stargazing. A Bortle Class 1 has no signs of artificial light, making the stars vividly visible; cities, with their light spill, are expectably a Class 9. Scientists call darkness an "endangered resource," already "extinct east of the Mississippi." A Bortle Class 8 sky is so murky that stars are not visible. Which brings us to Bortle 8 and its murk.
Written and performed by Chris Davis, who, oddly, seems to have reversed the numbers in the Bortle Scale, this show is in need of both a playwright and an astronomer. Anyway, he talks at us for an hour, recounting his childhood fantasies with narcissistic whimsy, regaling us with simple stories of wonder (the deer! the spider!), telling us to "think about it," as though we had never looked up. Everything is repeated and explained (a third-grade science class offers more substance), and he makes us all repeat aloud, "I am insignificant." Speak for yourself, kiddo.
Once he moves on to adult whimsy, imagining meeting John Bortle in space, he brags about his druggy past, his anxiety, his longing for darkness, his failures with women, and then gives a quick reprise of the entire show, just in case we didn't get it the first time.
He locates himself center stage, pointing at various audience members to incorporate them in his wisdom (deep, dude), and behind him are projections of black and gray and white morphing shapes that seem to illustrate nothing. For a show about darkness, the lighting design (Masha Tsimring) could have contributed more, as could the spooky soundscape (Adriano Shaplin).
Davis begins his monologue by very slowly teaching us the phrase terra incognita, apparently not realizing that it refers to the earth, not the sky.