By Edward Kliszus
Shanit Keter Schwartz delivered a riveting performance in her one-person New York City Center show. Schwartz captivated her audience with her words and presence, dancing, and a story augmented by diverse, powerful visual and aural media.
Schwartz’s story was powerful, passionate, personal, and unfolded elegantly. She began by describing her Yemenite Jewish family’s immigration to Israel after World War II. Schwartz initially described her celebration of life in Israel free of the oppression experienced in Yemen. She also portrayed harsh working and living conditions, inadequate food and medical services, and the family life dynamics and challenges of living with her rabbi father, mother, and several siblings in a one-room hut.
We discovered that Yemenite Jews faced significant challenges adapting to Israeli life. Many were uneducated and faced cultural and linguistic barriers that impeded their efforts to assimilate with Jews from Europe and beyond. Schwartz spent decades looking for a younger sister Sarah, who may have been victimized by a government-led kidnapping scheme. While her relationship with her father was complex and challenging, it ultimately led to a grand denouement you will want to witness.
As the audience assembled, music performed by Jerusalem-based Ofra Haza filled the space and set the tone for a profoundly exciting and important story. Haza’s music was a rich assortment of traditional Middle Eastern music, including Yemenite Jewish, Arabic, and Bedouin styles. Her fusion of old and new, modern pop and electronic elements helped create a unique sound of traditional and contemporary styles celebrating love, loss, and spirituality.
Music expertly performed by the cello, composed by James Newton Howard, added to the rich poignance of Schwartz’s tale.
Schwartz is a raconteur extraordinaire. From the onset, her repartee was confident and, at times, adapted to prompt audience interaction. One could hardly resist her gentle, enchanting coaxing. She exuded charisma as she commanded the stage with energy and charm. Schwartz’s timing was impeccably utilized for dramatic effect, while her suspense and pacing were expertly managed. Her voice conveyed various emotions and characters, using accents and expressing personalities with aplomb—bringing their stories to life. With her robust stage presence, Schwartz utilized body language, dance, and gestures to provide depth and nuance to her performance. She guided her audience through humor, sadness, fear, intrigue, and elation.
Daughter of the Wicked runs through May 14, so don’t wait to buy tickets. Come and be captivated, engaged, and comforted.
Runtime was 90 minutes with no intermission.
Daughter of the Wicked
Written and Performed by Shanit Keter Schwartz
Directed by Zeke Rettman
Original Music by James Newton Howard
Yemenite Theme Music Lilo Fedida
Choreography Katie Coleman
Media and Sound Design Fritz Davis
Lighting Design Daisy Long
New York City Center (Stage II)
Theater and Box Office
Mon-Sat Noon-8 pm and Sun Noon-7:30 pm
131 W 55th St (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
Tickets can also be purchased at this link online or at https://www.nycitycenter.org/pdps/2022-2023/daughter-of-the-wicked/.
To purchase tickets by phone, call 212.581.1212
For questions and information, email info@NYCityCenter.org
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Musica Sacra at St. John the Divine, MasterVoices at Central Synagogue, Turn the Beat Around at 54Below, and Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz st Lincoln Center Orchestra at MPAC.