By: Darryl Reilly
“Someday someone else is going to be living in your apartment, and your favorite shirt that’s hanging in the closet is going to end up at the Good Will, and somebody is going to say, ‘I’m not paying $20 for that shit!” So, performer David Dean Bottrell muses near the end of his scintillating self-written solo show, The Death of Me Yet. It is an entertaining personal exploration about death structured as short intertwined nonlinear comedic and wistful episodes punctuated by crisp blackouts. Mr. Bottrell is a veteran actor who has appeared plentifully in films and on episodic television, most notably in a mentally unstable guest-starring role on Boston Legal. Possessed of a richly expressive voice which ranges from soothing to emotive, and a lean animated physicality, the bespectacled and engaging Bottrell here enacts a compendium of well-crafted observations on the theme of demise while on a cabaret stage. Besides being revelatory about himself, Bottrell also verbally sketches humane mini portraits of those he has encountered during his life.
“I was walking down the street having a stroke” says Bottrell, describing the symptoms he experienced of his seeming brush with death in 2017. He was in Sarasota, Florida, following a question-and-answer session at a theater which performed a play he wrote. He soon recovered and moved on without medical attention, “If I called a doctor, it would become real.” Further such events occurred, one being “The Hiroshima of spells.” He finally underwent examination, strokes were ruled but no diagnosis was reached. A lengthy dispiriting odyssey of MRIs, CT scans and visits to specialist after specialist ensues, until finally a benign verdict is reached. Bottrell renders this defining incident through swirling and detailed suspense.
“No one cares about Uncle Ray; they just came here for the food” Bottrell recalls about the funeral of a relative he attended as a child where he was chagrined about the adults’ seeming indifference, and when he really became aware of death. “Oh, most of us only get together when someone gets married or dies, we’re glad to see that everyone is okay” explains a sympathetic aunt.
“In Los Angeles at every acting class I’ve taught, there are four kinds of people. Ones you love, ones you worry about, one you want to fuck and ones you want to kill” cracks the openly gay Bottrell before launching into a harrowing account of his being randomly pepper sprayed in a parking lot by young marauders after teaching. This event later spurred a nearly lethal asthmatic reaction. Bottrell regales the audience with his self-written imaginary Variety obituary, “He was perched for success.” Acerbic show business takes are offered, “Fuck the Second Stage!” he roars regarding a botched production of a play of his, and “Shitbag” is the epithet for his former literary agent.
“A haunted accordion” is how Bottrell describes a dying older man’s death rattle from AIDS in 1988; he was at the man’s deathbed. These recollections are shattering, and eloquently evoke that dark era. Donald, the dying man was a caustic theater director who was a friend and had been helpful to Bottrell’s career. “One-person shows, the last bastion of the unemployable” is among Donald’s witticisms Bottrell recites.
David Dean Bottrell’s appealing persona and insightful writing mark The Death of Me Yet as a thoughtful entertainment, provoking laughter and reflection. The show performs weekly on Monday nights in repertory with another Bottrell solo opus, Dear Mr. Bottrell, I Cannot Possibly Accept This.
The Death of Me Yet (through December 18, 2023)
Pangea, 178 Second Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit www.pangeanyc.com
Running time: 70 minutes without an intermission