NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Despite the Warren Commission, an Oliver Stone movie and various speculations, in the long run it seems that Lee Harvey Oswald acted on his own in assassinating President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. But Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby before his motives could be explored.
Rob Urbinati’s play, now at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, delves into the family tensions and disturbed mind of Oswald that might have led to this fatal decision. Lee Harvey, portrayed by Michael Goldsmith, shows signs of anger and frustration in dealing with his wife, Marina as well as his mother. He also talks about moving to Cuba, where Kennedy had experienced the Bay of Pigs fiasco during the missile crisis in October, 1962. Goldsmith captures this lonely, disillusioned young man effectively.
Lee’s mother, Marguerite Oswald, is really the pivotal character in this production. She’s brilliantly portrayed by Betsy Aidem as she dominates Lee and those around her, sometimes addressing the audience as well. She relentlessly displays her overbearing, protective love for her son that drives him away rather than bringing him closer. According to a timeline in the program, Marguerite sent her sons to an orphanage when Lee was just four years old. That may have engendered the sense of abandonment that resulted in so much of Lee’s unhappiness.
His older brother, Robert, is played by Miles G. Jackson, who delivered a memorable performance in “My Name is Asher Lev” last spring. Robert and his family live in Fort Worth, where Lee moves with his wife in 1962. Jackson seems stable and level headed compared to his brother and, at one point, is attracted to Marina. Laurel Casillo is Marina Oswald, Lee’s wife, in a convincing portrayal of a young woman struggling with English in a strange land. They met in Russia when he had defected to the Soviet Union.
The play has an unrelenting pulse as the tension builds and the scenes shift from Fort Worth to Dallas. Set design by Michael Anania fluidly introduces various locales. Ken Billington’s lighting enhances the dramatic turn of events.
Performances of “Mama’s Boy” continue through Nov. 6 at George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. For tickets, call 732-246-7717 or visit GSPonline.org.