If you’ve ever seen a performance presented by the Tank, you’ll recognize the distinctive preshow patter: a request for cash, immediately followed by an endearing offer of help. If you’re too broke to donate to the organization’s members, they say, you’re probably an artist. Maybe you could use some of their free rehearsal and performance space?
Ministering to starving artists is the company’s métier, which makes Sinking Ship Productions’ take on “A Hunger Artist” — part of the Tank’s Flint & Tinder series, now at the Connelly Theater — a thematically ideal match. The performer at the center of this play, adapted from Franz Kafka’s short story of the same title, makes his living by starving. Self-deprivation is his art, which he practices with fervent determination and on public display.
Directed by Joshua William Gelb from an elegant script by Josh Luxenberg, this visually arresting “Hunger Artist” leads with enchantment — not exactly the first thing you’d expect, Kafka-wise. But when Jon Levin steps onstage at the top of this 75-minute show, spookily white-faced beneath a moldering old top hat from a more romantic era (the costumes and set are by Peiyi Wong), he swiftly casts a spell. It only strengthens when he sets up a tiny, beautifully illuminated toy theater and enacts a deliciously comic version of Kafka’s tale with miniature puppets. (Good luck seeing much of it, though, if you’re not close to the stage and near the center of a row.)