New York | 1h 15m | Already closed

A Hunger Artist

From 12 critic and 18 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Clever, Absorbing, Ambitious, Masterful

About the show

The Tank and Sinking Ship present this new solo adaptation of Franz Kafka's tragicomic tale about the only person who remembers a very peculiar artist. More…

A man sits alone in a cage, starving himself for your entertainment. Once cheered by thousands, the Hunger Artist is now forgotten by everyone except his one-time manager. What begins as a simple nostalgic story transforms into an inventive trip into the nature of memory, art, performance, and spectatorship. Actor, puppeteer, and Sinking Ship co-artistic director Jonathan Levin stars.

1h 15m | Already closed | Connelly Theatre (East Village)

The Huffington Post

“Spellbinding…All the preliminary activity is amusing and remains amusing through the hunger artist’s first emergence, but at that point the tone changes to something grimmer…What ‘The Hunger Artist’ is—and is on steroids—is Levin’s tour de force…Everything employed to create this depiction of a psychologically challenging man is well done...‘A Hunger Artist’ has an impact equal to its power on the page. This is some accomplishment. It’s almost as if Kafka himself willed it into being.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"A poignant and effective piece of theatre...Great writing, acting, puppetry, audience participation, and creative elements of design...Levin is absolutely incredible...The tone captures the nihilistic and macabre traits of Kafka’s original story, often pitting merriment and celebration against depression and desolation...The epitome of how theatrical elements can be used to turn incredible stories into transformative works of art." Full Review

New York Irish Arts

"'A Hunger Artist' makes you want to stand up and cheer...Possibly the best solo performance of the year. It’s smart. It’s funny. And it’s highly theatrical...This is a work that is everything new theater should be...Levin has tremendous plasticity...Gelb’s direction hits every note–the gaiety, the dread, the pity. Luxenberg’s script is smart and not just funny but witty...A one-man show of deep beauty, remarkable invention, compassionate understanding, and sure theatricality." Full Review


"In the end all the elements—dramatically shadowy lighting by Kate McGee, eerie sound design by M. Florian Staab, witty puppets by Charlie Kanev and Sarah Nolan, illuminating props by Levin—come together in a deeply moving, even inspiring comedy/drama that shines a light not only on a sad historic institution, but on human endurance, pride and obsession." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"So delightful and original is this trio's approach that I don't want to spoil it for you; safe to say that 'A Hunger Artist' begins as a riotous vaudeville and darkens by degrees as the title character descends into melancholy and squalor...One of the eerier offerings to be found on a New York stage right now...Levin, Luxenberg, and Gelb have plenty of stage magic at their command, seducing us with comedy before dragging us willingly into the hunger artist's seedy, isolated existence." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Levin embodies the title character in a phenomenal performance, showing the agility of a gymnast in this physically demanding role, and capturing the psychological deterioration of the isolated outsider who takes so much pride in being misunderstood that he becomes something of a nightmare...There isn't a dull moment with the constantly shifting motifs, and the dazzling transformation Levin undergoes." Full Review


"Boisterously funny and chokingly sad...Through pure showmanship it defies expectation at almost every turn...The solo performance by Jon Levin, a gifted physical comic and movement artist, uses puppets, props, audience participants, delightfully clever stagecraft, and a combination of enactment and narration to present Kafka’s story intact but amplified, with a dry self-awareness...He is a distillation of humanity at its strongest and weakest, noblest and bleakest." Full Review

Theater Life

"A brilliant, bizarre and inventive piece of theater...A fluid display of theatrical styles from a depraved circus act, to a vaudevillian, to a tragic hero. Levin’s transformations are seamless...As a performance artist, he is enchanting, fluid, and exceptionally skillful. The way he morphs from one character to another, and from one emotional state to another, is remarkable." Full Review

Time Out New York

"It’s hard to come away from the story unscarred. But at the Connelly Theater, where the physical-theater company Sinking Ship is presenting a surprisingly lovable version of it, any scarring is light. Josh Luxenberg’s sweetly drawn bouffon adaptation of Kafka’s parable is full of jokes and sudden sympathy...Director Gelb and the company use 'poor theater' conventions of making much with little...and the result is homemade, tatty and warm. The artist starves, but we leave sated." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Adapted by Luxenberg and performed by Levin, their 'Hunger Artist' brings both a mischievous sense of humor and an appropriate corporal versatility to this solo show about a most extreme case of extreme performance...Levin proves an irresistible master of ceremonies...His Hunger Artist is sinewy and athletic with an animal-like grace. We are captivated by his power...Luxenberg and Levin's ironic gaze seems to fall on the fleeting rewards of self-performance for a distracted public." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“A compelling and hilarious piece of multi-discipline storytelling...It utilizes puppets, toy theatre, shadow play, and audience participation, all with an overwhelming sense of inventiveness and surprise…The creators were obviously captivated by the spectacle of 'A Hunger Artist,' and thankfully, through numerous theatrically exciting ways, they ushered us into that dark carnival world magically, and it won’t easily be forgotten again.” Full Review

The New York Times

“Mr. Levin is an easy raconteur, and he holds the audience in the palm of his hand in this early section of the play. But then comes an audience-participation scene, and the spell shatters…This is a 'Hunger Artist' of deliberately shifting moods, and its early humor is largely subsumed in the darkness that follows. When lightheartedness resurfaces, it doesn’t necessarily work...The show is remarkably well designed, though." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You enjoy physical theater and inventive storytelling

Don't see it if You don't like adaptations

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting

See it if like ambitious, thought-provoking one-man shows with great production values.

Don't see it if don't. (But see it anyway, and your mind might be changed!)

Also Kudos to all involved for taking an allegorical Kafka short story and ... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Absorbing

See it if amazing visuals achieved by remarkably modest setup. Exquisite and varied acting that never feels like a typical solo show. Quite charming!

Don't see it if There is some audience participation that worked out fairly well when I attended but YMMV.

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Quirky, Edgy

See it if You like theatre that strays from the norm; something different that you don't see often, if ever.

Don't see it if You don't like shows that are outside your comfort zone, or if eating disorders are a trigger for you emotionally.

Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Great staging, Great design

See it if you search out the best-of-fringe fare; you like really well-conceived, well-produced solo gems, Kafka, or enjoyed Gelb’s The Black Crook

Don't see it if you avoid one-man shows and irony

Also This performance is quite perfect. The solo show is the ideal meta-med... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Ambitious, Great acting, Masterful

See it if you want to see an absolutely amazing, masterful performance and amazing inventiveness. Really wonderful stuff, if a little long.

Don't see it if You want a linear plot line or don't like puppetry and one-person shows. But even if you don't think it is your kind of show, give it a try.

Absorbing, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Ambitious

See it if creative solo performance excites you. Best solo piece I have seen! Uses a variety of techniques and creates convincing alternate characters

Don't see it if you are disturbed by issues related to starvation and obsessive disorders.

Delightful, Clever, Enchanting, Masterful, Resonant

See it if Highly evocative of 1930's German expressionist cinema.

Don't see it if You want a straightforward anything

Great acting, Masterful, Profound

See it if you like something out of the ordinary.

Don't see it if You really don't like 1 man shows. ( I usually don't like them, but this was good!) But I wouldn't bring kids.

Also When it first started, I thought I wasn't going to like it. Accent was... Read more Read less

Profound, Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if you like old-school vaudeville with a patina of existential dread, and are into physical proficiency and unusual puppetry.

Don't see it if you like fast-moving, plot-heavy theater or are put off by physical extremity.

Clever, Masterful, Quirky, Refreshing, Experiential

See it if you are looking for a show that fights to break the mold. A meditation on being an artist for one's self.

Don't see it if you'd rather classic playwriting form. Also if you can't really get behind expressionism, bare intimate theatre, and anxious experiences.

Also I love finding theatre that makes you aware of the ephemeral experienc... Read more Read less

Quirky, Great acting, Funny, Disappointing, Indulgent

See it if You're younger than I am

Don't see it if Quirky isn't enough for you

Confusing, Dizzying, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if You like weird shit

Don't see it if You get confused easy

During previews
Ambitious, Great staging, Masterful, Must see, Intelligent

See it if You want to be constantly surprised and delighted... you want to see a superb actor in an expertly written and directed show.

Don't see it if You don't want to see something new.

Also This show works on so many levels: large and small, light and dark, th... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if you are able to appreciate simple but brilliant means of taking a profound Kafka novella and creating a moving & unique theatrical experiece

Don't see it if it would take big budget devices to induce you to contemplate the exploitation underlying "entertainment"; you dislike serious theater.

Also One of the best pieces I've seen recently, using many theatrical devic... Read more Read less

During previews
Great acting, Slow, Resonant, Ambitious, Quirky

See it if You appreciate physical acting, clowning, puppetry & performance art. You want an unique theatrical experience.

Don't see it if You don't like clowning or a story that's told mainly by physical acting. You dislike audience participation.

During previews
Clever, Great staging, Ambitious, Fluffy, Edgy

See it if Great costumes, sound, lighting; packed with a variety of performance techniques (puppetry, shadow puppetry, pantomime, immersive theater)

Don't see it if You prefer big budget productions; first half could use more focus, but second half retelling artist's decline was absolutely absorbing

During previews

See it if A brave and ambitious attempt to bring a complicated short story to the stage

Don't see it if You need fully developed theatre with a point of view

Cast & Creatives (9)