Like the autumn leaves, Lee Harvey Oswald in Rob Urbinati’s new drama, “Mama’s Boy,” undergoes dramatic changes leading up to his fall and demise. The riveting play strips away the shroud of conspiracy surrounding Oswald, providing an intimate view of the tumultuous family that colored the life of one of the United States’ most notorious accused assassins.

When Good Theater’s Brian P. Allen learned several years ago that his longtime friend, playwright Urbinati, was having trouble finding a theater to stage “Mama’s Boy,” Allen begin working with Urbinati to develop the play for a world premiere run at Good Theater. The resulting labor of love, directed by Allen, is an intriguing take on history that follows the lives of the Oswald family from June 1962 to February 1964.

The Kennedy assassination serves as a framework for “Mama’s Boy,” but the play isn’t overtly political, or intended to change public opinion regarding Oswald’s alleged role in the assassination. At its heart, the play is a domestic drama about a family that has become a mere footnote in history.

When Lee Harvey Oswald’s father died of a heart attack, his mother, Marguerite, struggled to raise Lee – who was born after his father’s death – and his two older brothers, John and Robert. Two subsequent failed marriages left her lonely and desperate to hold onto the love of her children, ultimately driving all three away with her suffocating neediness. Lee, who resembled his deceased father, was her favorite, shouldering much of her obsessive love. The two even slept in the same bed until Lee was 12 years old.

Above: Graham Emmons as Lee Harvey Oswald and Betsy Aidem as his mother, Marguerite. Left: Erik Moody as Lee’s brother Robert; Laurel Casillo as Lee’s wife, Marina; and Aidem.

Erik Moody as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert; Laurel Casillo as Lee’s wife, Marina; and Betsy Aidem as his mother, Marguerite.

Broadway star Betsy Aidem delivers a powerful performance as Marguerite. Her character blazes from the footnotes of history, heating up the stage with unbridled determination, combined with smothering desperation. Aidem humanizes Marguerite, allowing the audience to experience both the influence she held over Lee and sympathize with Marguerite as her family falls apart.

Graham Emmons and Erik Moody are well cast as Lee and his brother Robert. Emmons does a fine job portraying Lee’s emotional instability and growing paranoia as he progresses from a loving newlywed and father to an abusive husband, disenchanted with his life.

Moody adds depth as Robert, personifying the antagonism that the Oswald brothers felt toward their overbearing mother. The audience can feel his character’s seething hate toward Marguerite, offset by his love and empathy for Lee and his Russian wife, Marina.

Marina, played by Laurel Casillo, lights the fuse in the explosive Oswald family dynamics. When Lee returns from Russia with his new wife – who doesn’t speak English – and baby, Marguerite overcompensates in an attempt to secure Lee’s love, further alienating him and his new wife. Casillo captures Marina’s emotional journey from naivety to disillusionment and fear.

“Mama’s Boy” is a gripping family drama that illuminates history by adding a touch of humanity.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at: [email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle

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