Following the trajectory of his career from heavy-metal rocker to student, writer, and theater artist, Carlos Dengler not only recounts his own personal development, but considers it within the context of the maturation process from youth to adulthood and the course of the evolution of our species, in his one-man show Homo Sapiens Interruptus. Interspersing his non-linear autobiographical reminiscences with observations on Existentialist and Platonic philosophy, facts about paleo-anthropology, the history of headbanger music, and psychological self-analysis, the soul-searching writer/performer is articulate, soft-spoken, and engrossing, and the complete antithesis of what you might have expected a rock star to be—until you saw this uber-intelligent show.
Directed with quiet introspection and deliberateness by Darren Lee Cole, Dengler–sporting glasses, a well-groomed beard and hair, and a shirt, vest, and jacket–delivers his monologue of self-discovery in a format more akin to an academic lecture than a dramatic performance. He remains seated at a table throughout, speaking in direct address to the audience, referring frequently to his notes, turning the pages, holding up mounted photographs, and gesturing precisely to emphasize his points. He is thoughtful and reflective, making connections between his life, the defining choices we all face, and the grand scheme of things, citing Søren Kierkegaard’s observation that “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
Moving back and forth in time, Dengler reveals the impulses for the decisions he’s made, from his relationship with his father and being bullied at school, to discovering the music of Megadeth and Metallica in his teen years, to his insightful perspective on the serious socio-political content in heavy-metal music (along with its inherent anger and rebellion), to his passion for study and learning. He also relates very visual anecdotes, in often poetic and sometimes agitated language, about the results of those choices: creating a form for his heavy-metal alter-ego by becoming a founding member and bassist of the indie band Interpol in 1998 (he was then known as Carlos D); achieving worldwide fame while touring nationally and internationally with them; and meeting his idols David Bowie and Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe; as well as cutting off his dreadlocks, attending community college, going on for his graduate degree at NYU, enjoying an appreciation of the peaceful soothing tone of classical music, and having mystical visions and conversations with early hominids, inspired by the courses in which he enrolled and the beauty and grandeur of the natural world.
Throughout Dengler’s journey of self-realization were periods of disillusionment, doubt, indecision, and emptiness, times when he couldn’t stand to look at his own face, and living in alternating states of “angst” and “grace.” The shifting moods of his memoir are accentuated by a soundscape of recorded music, from heavy metal to new age to classical, and by changes in lighting, from spotlights, to soft lights, to total blackouts. While the show seems a bit long at nearly an hour and a half and repeats some of the most important decisions he made, the keen intellect and acute self-awareness of Dengler’s Homo Sapiens Interruptus shine brightly through it all. We leave with the hope that he is as happy and satisfied with his choices as his audiences have been, and continue to be, in his evolving life as a musician, writer, and actor.
Running Time: Approximately 85 minutes, without intermission.