“Mama’s Boy,” opening George Street Playhouse’s (GSP) new season, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is playwright Rob Urbinati’s macro view of where Lee Harvey Oswald came from–the influence and love of his mother, Marguerite. There’s nothing like a mother’s love and this startling and brilliant telling from her point of view is full of love, even as it chills the blood.
Betsy Aidem is the actor who brings Marguerite fully to life, as four-dimensional as only some characters can be. She’s a half-bubble off plumb and has some very interesting ways of showing her love. She’s Mama Rose, through a glass darkly.
Michael Goldsmith is Lee Harvey Oswald and he’s a combination of humility and 1950s/60s manhood. It was a difficult time figuring out how a man should be, even growing up in Texas, and with the world already swirling with winds of change. Lee, or Alec as his wife sometimes called him, was all about change–but manifested in a manifesto. When he joined the Marines, and later defected to Russia, he thought he’d found his raison d’être. Whether he did or not remains to be seen. Goldsmith preserves the mystery and, with his portrayal, gives us enough to wonder whether or not Oswald was the patsy he claimed to be. His anger is acetylene and real and the pitch of change is febrile and intense.
As Marina Oswald, Laurel Casillo is Madame Butterfly meets Madame Bovary. She’s a stranger in a strange land, following her husband, with their infant daughter, into a world both scary and exciting. She finds an expatriate community which combines the best of Mother Russia and the New World, yet her struggle to find her own place puts her at odds with her husband’s ideology and increasingly strange expressions of it. Casillo creates a moving portrait of a woman caught between Marguerite and her Dr. Jekyll husband who’s showing signs of Hyde. She turns to the one person who seems to care, Lee’s brother Robert.
Miles G. Jackson’s Robert Oswald is a man fully in control of his surroundings. He’s a success in every way–wife, family, home, and business, and he’s uniquely positioned to help his red sheep brother. Many remember Jackson from last season’s GSP hit “I Am Asher Lev,” and to see a different side of this talented actor is one of the many reasons to return. He and Marina enter one another’s orbit and this creates a host of interesting moments.
It all comes down, however, to one thing–if Mama ain’t happy, then no one is. Aidem’s Marguerite is caring and giving at one moment and maddeningly demanding in the next. Her unfiltered thoughts spring forth from her lips in ways that were common then, but aren’t now. Her treatment of her new daughter-in-law in the first act is a picture of how far we’ve come as a culture. Marguerite is a symphony, but she’s not Mozart. She’s Stravinsky. She’s Schoenberg. She’s twelve-tone and must be experienced oneself. She may change the way you think … forever.
Be sure to subscribe now for David Saint’s 20th season as GSP artistic director. It’s going to be an amazing ride! Visit www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org
today, as “Mama’s Boy” is only available through November 6!