Theater Review: Abdullah Schwarz

The Schwarz Family lives in Savyonei Shomron, a West Bank settlement. Tziki Schwarz (Avi Kushnir) is an accountant contemplating divorce from his wife of 30 years, Tirtza (Anat Waxman). However…

It’s Lali Schwarz’s (Efrat Baumwald) wedding day. She’s marrying Aviel Tzur (Shlomo Tapiero), not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but… The reading of a seemingly innocuous verse turns Papa Tziki Schwarz (Avi Kushnir) of Savyonei Shomron on the West Bank into Egyptian Abdullah with no recollection of his true identity. Reading the verse again turns him back to Tziki with no memory of his Arab identity, except that…

Oh for heaven’s sake!

Roni Pinkovitch has directed one of the funniest, smartest local comedies to come along in ages. It gleefully slays every sacred cow in sight while keeping its tongue firmly in its cheek. Events go south and back again as a superb cast imperturbably juggles an incipient security situation, Mossad shenanigans, hatred of Arabs, coexistence, romance and whatnot, with maximum brio and without ever dropping a ball (to mix metaphors).

It all happens on Zeev Levy’s convincing indoor/outdoor set complete with outsize Israeli flag, aided and abetted by good costuming (Aviah Bash), lighting (Adi Shimrony), music (Elad Adar), movement (Sharon Gal), and not least by Rubi Moskovich’s Arab/Egyptian dialogue coaching of Kushnir.

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Kushnir is phenomenal as Tziki/Abdullah – there’s no other word for his effortless switching between somewhat henpecked, a mite gormless Tziki and the virile, potent man-with-a-mission Abdullah. Anat Atzmon, a truly fine actress, has (unhappily) been somewhat typecast these past few years as a shrew. Yes, her Tirtza is a shrew, but muted, her pretty pink clothing complementing the mood. Then Tirtza meets Abdullah and all at once she’s bashful, giggly, sweetly smitten and an utter joy to watch. An even greater joy is watching Atzmon and Kushnir working seamlessly together.

Shahir Kabaha is Fadi, an area Arab, or “Israel from Petah Tikva,” and he is delicious as Abdullah’s willy-nilly translator from Arabic to Hebrew. Father and son Tzur – respectively Hai Maor and Tapiero – charge headlong and most believably into their roles as security office/father of the groom and bridegroom. Baumwald’s dippy Lali is beautifully anxious to please, and Odel Hayon makes a sturdy, eager Reli, Lali’s younger brother. Most ably rounding out this great cast is Tal Charnovsky as big sister Sari, a card-carrying leftie, who’s come up for the wedding from planet Tel Aviv.

Abdullah Schwarz – 80 minutes of mischievous irreverence and not to be missed.

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