Word comes via New York magazine that the Kitchen theater and gallery will be staging, starting today, Bellona: Destroyer of Cities, a performance based on Samuel R. Delany’s sci-fi masterpiece Dhalgren.
It’s curious enough that an avant-garde theater company would use highbrow science fiction as a source, but it’s downright bizarre to hear that anyone would tackle Dhalgren. The 1975 novel is not only controversial (its racial and sexual themes are still hot points today) and divisive (even the sci-fi community is torn over, it, with Theodore Sturgeon and William Gibson amongst its defenders and Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison its detractors), but it’s the very definition of unfilmable (and, presumably, unstageable). While it contains some recognizable sci-fi tropes (bizarre astronomical phenomena, the struggle of survivors in a post-apocalyptic environment, warring gangs of thugs using hi-tech holographic gadgets), it’s also restlessly postmodern, highly metafictional, and constantly circling around themes of identity and reality that play with the nature and structure of the text.
It’s a bit vague how the Kitchen will be approaching their adaptation of a book whose meaning is inseparable from the way the text is presented, but while they’re taking liberties (note the different title, and the fact that the play features a different cast than the book), Delany himself is a fan. Which leads to the next question: if someone has finally figured out how to stage Dhalgren, will an attempt to film it be close behind?