Tonight was David Dean Bottrell: The Death of Me Yet at Pangea in New York City’s East Village. The high-energy storyteller slapped himself, immediately capturing the audience’s attention and earning laughs. Bottrell began his one-man show consisting of a series of stories about his life that, while appearing to be individual, were, in the end, connected and universal.
An Existential Romp
The title seemed at first peculiar as inspiration for an amusing monologue. But it made sense as Bottrell passionately relayed his stories, guiding us through a humorous sojourn and emergent awareness of the death process. Bottrell noted, “There is very little to be said about death but much to say about what leads up to it.” We were prepared for an existential romp while laughing at the face of mortality.
Absurdity to Life
For a moment, I pondered Jean-Paul Sartre’s “dismissal of death as the absurdity to life” and Martin Heidegger’s argument that “death is not simply an event that happens to us at the end of our lives, but rather a fundamental part of our existence.” Given these views, “death” seemed, after all, a rich source of humor! Audience members sympathetically nodded when Bottrell noted that the importance of living is “only the connection you get between two living people.”
Opening with a broad smile, Bottrell delivered a fiery opening about a past exploit at LAX and his flight east. After a night of partying and sleeping too late in LA, he had rushed to the airport, hit his head on arrival, drew blood, and surprisingly gained the prayers and sympathy of strangers.
Bottrell’s swift opening monologue was flavored with witty, perfectly timed quips about “trashy Florida,” his childhood church experiences in the Deep South, and fears of his head exploding on the flight from Los Angeles to New York. As the story unfolded, we experienced a crescendo of hilarious, self-deprecating observations leading to a cliff-hanging moment, a snap of his fingers, and a blackout.
David Dean Bottrell. Photo by Carmen Guzman
Sick of Being Afraid
We discovered that Bottrell was no longer afraid to die. Reminding us to put our affairs in order, he explained how to thrive in impossible situations and deal with friends and family who die. He declared, “I’m sick of being afraid.”
Besides, as Bottrell noted, if nobody dies, “Imagine how long the line at Starbucks would be!”
We heard Bottrell share deeply personal stories that touched hearts and tickled imaginations. His storytelling was infused with hilarious injections of witty anecdotes and surprising twists. Bottrell was authentic, human, and vulnerable as he immersed listeners in his vibrant, poignant accounts.
A Mirror for Our Own Experiences
Tonight’s themes dealt with the universality of love, loss, hope, and redemption–all emotions we can relate to as human beings. Bottrell’s monologue served as a mirror for our own experiences and feelings, reminding us that we are not alone in our journey.
Bottrell expertly employed a literary, dramatic technique of running several stories simultaneously. He conveyed parallel narratives while inter-cutting between multiple storylines. The product of his creative approach was a dynamic and complex narrative structure. It was a captivating, engaging, and challenging cerebral method that ensured rapt audience attention. After all, everyone wanted, no, needed to know how each story ended!
Pay Attention to Your Feet
Bottrell waxed philosophical and wrapped up the night by reminding everyone to pay attention to their feet as they walked left-right, one step at a time. He noted that, after all, “you’re moving, and you’re breathing.” He gently continued, “I am not a fan of the phrase, life is a journey.” “I prefer, “We all get a turn at life. It’s your turn, and it’s ok.” He finished with a call and response celebrating life. As he spoke, each listener repeated, “I’m alive!”
A gifted actor and raconteur, Bottrell touched hearts, inspiring listeners, and allowed them to connect with something larger than themselves. Through words and actions, he conveyed various emotions, from joy and happiness, to sadness and despair. Addressing universal themes like love, loss, hope, and redemption, he brought his stories to life in a way that resonated with the audience. Bottrell ensured that his listeners felt a sense of empathy and understanding for him and his struggles.
Bottrell well-earned the audience’s affirmation and extended applause. Bravo!
Runtime is about 75 minutes, and the show runs through December 18.