New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Mama's Boy - a look at Lee Harvey Oswald

By Gary Wien

originally published: 10/24/2016

Mama's Boy - a look at Lee Harvey Oswald

Regardless of when you were born, it’s likely you have heard about Lee Harvey Oswald — the man who assassinated President Kennedy.  He’s one of the biggest villains in modern times; someone you could imagine created by the mind of William Shakespeare.  But even Oswald had a family.  More importantly, even Oswald had a mother and it turns out he was quite the “mama’s boy.”

George Street Playhouse takes us on a ride into the mind of Lee Harvey Oswald - before and after the assassination - in the play, Mama’s Boy by Rob Urbinati. The play, directed by David Saint, kicks off the season and ushers in the 20th year at the theatre for Saint, George Street’s Artistic Director.  The production stars Laurel Casillo (Lee’s wife) and Betsy Aidem (Lee’s mother) recreate the characters they originated last year when the play had its World Premiere at Good Theater in Portland. Michael Goldsmith (Lee Harvey Oswald) and Miles G. Jackson (Lee’s brother) round out the cast.

Mama’s Boy is essentially a family drama that involves a family with a unique place in American history.  We all know how Kennedy’s death affected the nation, but how did it affect the Oswald’s?  What ran through his mother’s head when she heard the news? Did she blame herself? What about his wife and his brother?

“The play takes this huge cataclysmic historical event and looks at it from an angle we don’t get to examine a lot,” explained Michael Goldsmith.  “Obviously, it was a huge tragedy for our country, but it was also a huge tragedy for Oswald’s family.  It was pretty devastating for them too.

Mama's Boy - a look at Lee Harvey Oswald

“Everyone knows the history,” continued Goldsmith.  “Everyone has an idea of who this man is, a basic idea of the timeline, and maybe a few facts here and there.  But I think it’s a service to actually dig into this person’s life and try to understand where the evil and violence came from.  And I think they came from pain.  This was a man in a lot of pain.  I think anyone can emphasize with a man in pain.  It manifested itself in an unacceptable way, but I actually feel a lot of sympathy for him.”



The article continues after this ad

 


Much of that pain stemmed from his relationship with his mother.  Marguerite Oswald (Lee’s mother) was domineering, obsessive, and desperate by her need to be loved by her son.  She has been described as a character straight out of Dickens’.  Goldsmith said she is someone you wouldn’t believe could exist, but did — a woman that is eccentric and bizarre and fierce.

“Getting to know Marguerite Oswald is a wild and interesting ride,” said Goldsmith.

For Goldsmith, the challenge in portraying Lee Harvey Oswald is that for much of the play, he hasn’t committed a crime yet.  The potential for evil is there, but it’s unrealized potential.  His job as an actor was to find where the potential came from.  As he researched Oswald’s life, he discovered it was short, but fascinating.  He learned he had lived in Japan while in the marines and what his years in Russia were like while he was attempting to defect.

“This is a person who had a pretty unusual life,” noted Goldsmith.  “So, getting to dig into why he made the decisions he made was interesting to me.  I don’t think of him as a villain.  I mean, I know that he is in terms of history, but in terms of the play we’re doing that hasn’t happened yet. I think the most interesting part of the role is having to enter into someone else’s psyche, one that a lot of people would consider twisted or call a misfit or anti-social.  There are many labels you could affix to this man.  For me to have to strip all of that away and figure out who he is at a core level and how I can live in his head for a little bit is the most interesting aspect.”

In the end, what makes the play more of a family drama than a historical one, is the way everyone has family issues at times.  We are unlikely to ever face a situation similar to the Oswald’s, but are forced to face difficult issues nevertheless.

Mama's Boy - a look at Lee Harvey Oswald

“What I think is the core of the play and most fascinating is how even when our family repels us or when we can’t stand to be near them, we still need them,” added Goldsmith.  “You need your family.  You have this core evolutionary connection to the people you’re related to and the play explores how you can’t run away from that.  You are stuck with your family.”

Goldsmith may be new to George Street audiences, but science fiction fans might recognize him. He grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and graduated from the Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (since renamed The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).  One of the most famous students from that school was David Tennant who became the Tenth Doctor in the legendary science fiction series Doctor Who.  In an ironic twist of fate, Goldsmith’s first professional job after graduating would be working alongside Tennant in “The Waters of Mars” episode.

“It was my first job out of drama school,” recalled Goldsmith.  “I was completely overjoyed.  I remember screaming on the phone when I got the call.  I mean, you leave school and you’re auditioning and nothing is happening.  I think it was about 7 or 8 months before I was able to book that first job.  They sent me this watermarked script with my name on it, which felt like the most official thing in the world even though I was just auditioning.  Then I read it and it was such a good episode.  It was dark and twisted and sad, and it went for something.  I was so impressed with it.  Then to get the job and get to go to Wales for 2 weeks and work with those amazing people was the coolest!”

Goldsmith admits he had only seen a handful of episodes prior to auditioning for the role, but soon discovered how large the Doctor Who fanbase is.  When he got the job, they took pictures of him from every angle — just in case they ever decide to make a toy of Roman Groom (his character). 

“I never in a million years thought they would  ever make a toy of my character, but to think that it was even remotely possible is just hilarious to me,” said Goldsmith.

While he may not find himself in a toy store, he does have his own trading card! Roman Groom was included as part of the 2016 Topps Doctor Who Extraterrestrial Encounters series with signed cards by Goldsmith.

Mama’s Boy runs now through November 6, ending just before election day.  The irony of presenting this play, during a political season unlike any other in recent memory, is not lost on David Saint.

“With all the talk of conspiracies and government distrust during this unprecedented election cycle, it seems appropriate to revisit what many consider America’s greatest conspiracy from a very different perspective,” said Saint.

Mama's Boy - a look at Lee Harvey Oswald

All photos by  T. Charles Erickson





For more by this author, click here




More Articles You Might Like

NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present  Murder Mystery Weekends
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
The Theater Project Presents 5th Annual One-Act Play Competition
The Theater Project Presents 5th Annual One-Act Play Competition
Centenary Stage To Hold Non-Union Open Call Auditions For 2019 Summer Musical Season
Centenary Stage To Hold Non-Union Open Call Auditions For 2019 Summer Musical Season






Event calendar
Friday, Mar 22, 2019


MUSIC

East Coast In Lullaby @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

LIONEL RICHIE @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Swingadelic Featuring Rob Paparozzi @ Roys Hall (Blairstown), Blairstown - 8:00pm

Carolyn Messina at Table 42 @ Table 42, Dover - 7:00pm

Tom Chapin with Dan Pelletier at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

Finding Neverland @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Music of Cream @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

Summer of Love IX @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

WARRANT @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 6:00pm

Selwyn Birchwood @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Mamma Mia @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Native Gardens @ Eagle Theatre, Hammonton - 8:00pm

The Source by Jack Canfora @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Sassy Mamas presented by Dunbar Repertory Company @ Middletown Arts Center, Middletown - 8:00pm

CURIOUS GEORGE: THE GOLDEN MEATBALL @ The Growing Stage: The Childrens Theatre of New Jersey, Netcong - 7:30pm

Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 7:00pm

Ken Ludwigs The Gods of Comedy @ Matthews Theatre @ McCarter Theatre, Princeton - 8:00pm

Theo @ Marion Huber Theater @ Two River Theater, Red Bank - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Comedy Night at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


FILM

Hairspray Sing-Along with host Jeremy Grunin! @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 8:00pm


KIDS

Celebrate Holi @ iPlay America, Freehold - 4:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.