Sinking Ship Productions Presents Jonathan Levin in Rare Revival of Kafka’s A Hunger Artist
By: Ellis Nassour
A man sits alone in a cage, starving himself for your entertainment. That’s the premise of the all-but-forgotten Kafka opus A Hunger Artist, based on his 1922 short story. You’ll have the rare opportunity to experience its uniqueness with Joshua William Gelb’s production at the Connelly Theatre (220 East 4th Street, between Avenues A and B) June 1-27.
As stated, the audience is Levin’s co-star. Members are invited onstage and via voiceover narration are given cues for Levin to respond to — and even push him to move it along. There’s also puppetry and miniatures, and an inspired and sophisticated audience participation segment to draw viewers into the Victorian carnival world that unfolds.
Levin, co-artistic director of Sinking Ship, is also a founding member of Norway-based the Krumple Theatre Company. He’s a director, performer, and puppeteer. . He directed the 2014 NYTimes Critics Pick Powerhouse and won a 2008 FringeNYC Excellence Award for Outstanding Direction for There Will Come Soft Rains.
The story is one of the few Kafka didn’t order burned on his death. He was still editing the piece in 1924 Germany when he succumbed to tuberculosis. Because the disease sealed his throat, Kafka died of starvation.
“Once cheered by thousands,” says Gelb, “the artist is forgotten by everyone except his one-time manager, the only person who remembers him.”
Levin and the startlingly inventive work “take audiences on a darkly comic trip into the nature of memory, art, performance, and spectatorship.” The theme of a protagonist who experiences a decline in appreciation of his art and is marginalized and victimized by society is archetypical of Kafka’s style.
Sinking Ship is acclaimed for their visually inventive productions. Luxenberg, formerly an assistant director at Baltimore’s Center Stage and Paper Mill Playhouse, is the company’s co-artistic director. His Powerhouse was presented by the New Ohio Theatre and was a finalist at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference. Co-presenting The Hungry Artist is The Tank for their Flint & Tinder series.
Gelb is also a performer, and librettist whose recent projects include a re-imagining of America’s supposed first musical The Black Crook at Abrons Arts Center.
Tickets are $15 – $35 and available at www.thetanknyc.org. Visit the site for the performance schedule.