In the hours that follow the assassination of the 35th President of the United States of America, the eyes of the nation zero in on local law enforcement of Dallas, Texas, and the person of interest they have in custody.
Lee Harvey Oswald (Andrew Perez) is removed from a movie theatre by police and arrested for possession of a handgun. It is not long before Oswald is charged with the murder of a police officer, J.D. Tippit, who was gunned down a few blocks from Oswald’s home in Dallas. Oswald already carries a chip on his shoulder about the way the CIA has harassed his Russian wife. He scorns the dysfunctional social and political systems at work in America, while standing behind his right to do so, as an American citizen.
Captain Will Fritz (P. David Miller) catches the case. He is the member of Dallas’ finest who will interrogate the man who will eventually be charged with the murder of JFK that same day. Evidence trickles in throughout the course of the day, with which Fritz slowly, methodically builds a circumstantial case that indicts Oswald. Oswald himself identifies the evidence as circumstantial and continues to adamantly deny committing any murders, having possession of a rifle or any wrong doing of any kind. Moreover, he is stubborn and intermittently cooperative.
The only help Fritz has in actually investigating Oswald comes from Detective Jim Leavelle (Dan Burkarth), a cop who seems to make no judgments about Oswald either way. He brings the facts for to Fritz present to Oswald, while also fielding urgent calls from the Mayor and other political types. Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander (David Lee Garver) continually pops in to remind the Captain of the many political ramifications of mishandling the situation. Officer Sims (AJ Jones) stands on the other side of the interrogation room door, at the ready to pummel the “obviously-guilty” Oswald upon request.
For two days the war of wills between Oswald & Captain Fritz rages on, while the world outside watches and waits for the inevitable confession that never comes.
This production of Oswald is great. Reminiscent of Glengary Glen Ross, where a war of wills is mangled within a war of principles, Oswald is indeed the story we have not yet seen about the assassination of JFK. A compact, yet weighty drama, this production is a smart and gripping piece that plays and feels authentic in tone and character.
What is intriguing about P. David Miller’s performance is the tenacity of focus displayed by Captain Fritz. There is no malice or vitriol attached to Fritz’s interrogation. He is singularly focused on the truth. His purity of principle is clear when he meets the unthinkable tactic of torture with genuine laughter. As external forces pressure Fritz for results, he desperately wants a confession from Oswald, but only if it is the truth.
Similarly, Andrew Perez portrays Oswald with limitless defiance. The character of Oswald is a victim of his own intractable principles and his deeply entrenched political and ethical beliefs; they are what make him incapable of cooperating fully, even to the point of his own ruin. Simultaneously, Perez thinly laces the explosive and confrontational Oswald with a persistent, albeit fleeting, vulnerability that speaks to his possible innocence in a way that he cannot actively articulate.
Two hours is a long time to basically watch two men verbally spar with so little movement in the topic. But trust me, the time will fly. Miller and Perez are beautifully matched in chemistry and intensity. It is refreshing to see adversaries who are worthy of one another; it is simply more provocative for an audience when it is not obvious who is going to prevail. And while history dictates what will happen outside that Dallas interrogation room, this Dennis Richard play keeps you on the edge while on the inside.
Congratulations should be given to Director Richmond Shepard for the smart staging, great casting, judicious use of archive audio clips and for shepherding his lead actors to performances that felt organic and expertly modulated.
Oswald – The Play runs January 14, 2012 through February 18, 2012 at:
6128 Yucca Street
Hollywood, CA 90028
Ticket Information: 323.469.3113 or
Reserve ONLINE at: www.plays411.com/oswald
Photo Credit: Dennis Richard