Ona… From Skepticism To Belief, Truth
These were some of the questions the play Ona tried to tease out answers for last Sunday at Blue Nest Hotel, Ajao Estate, Isolo, Lagos. It was The Rose of Sharon production, the drama unit of The Pater’s Heritage, written and directed by Mr. Ben Chiadika.
A decrepit Ona (Frank Konwea), who is perpetually drunk and deludes himself his is God, arrives at a certain point on the highway with his clumsy bag and a huge cross bearing the inscription ‘I am God’ written cross-wise and settles down to what appears his rest place for the night. But his evening’s repose is punctuated by chapping of some zealous Christians far off, but soon enough Elijah (David Enyo) bursts into the scene from among his singing brethren with fury and anger and disappointment. He bellows in frustration and startles Ona, who jumps up in bewilderment. They accost each other, and a turning point, illuminating conversation ensues between them.
When Elijah asks Ona what the cross he is carrying signifies, and he declares that he’s ‘God’ and any other smart fellow claiming to be God is false. In fact, the circumstance of his existence convinces beyond doubt that there couldn’t be any God anywhere else except him. Elijah’s counter to the contrary wouldn’t sway Ona otherwise. Why, if Elijah was one of those hand-clapping fellows who believed in ‘God’, why does he look so sad? Elijah assures him he is a believer, but that he’s been so let down by his God that his faith now waivers and he can’t be sure anymore.
Ona and Elijah live in different worlds. Ona’s story is the story of many begotten in despicable circumstances. His drunken mother had a one-night stand with a wayward man who would be his father and he got made in the process. At 14 with no discernable direction, he hits the road to seek his fortune and way of life. His father was happy to shove N100 not in to his hand to wave him off. Not able to find worthwhile direction, he looks deep into his soul and concludes he must be the ‘God’ he’s looking for. Ona, like most people on earth – whether rich or poor, believes they are self-made and have no need for any external supernatural power outside of themselves called God they can defer to. Although obviously poor, Ona has made himself his own God and lives in this misbegotten illusion.
Elijah’s further attempts to inform him that God is good, kind, and self-sacrificing further confuse him. If God is all that – died so he could save mankind from itself – why is Elijah giving up on Him? For Ona who is used to the meaninglessness that life can sometimes be, Elijah’s God seems a bundle of contradiction, a fable that can only tickle children. His attempt to preach to him about Jesus Christ arouses his curiosity though, as he calls Christ a ‘nice guy’, for the good he did while on earth.
But it would take Elijah’s personal story of deep agony and pain and loss to woo the skeptical Ona from his chosen way to a better way of life that opens his eyes. Elijah lived in a northern city after Youth Service, falls in love with a lady and maries her. She is pregnant, but religious fanatics take to the streets and murder her. For Elijah, why did God not do anything to rescue his beloved?
But speaking about his God to Ona strengthens Elijah’s faith somewhat. Ona is intrigued the way Elijah’s beloved confronts her murderers with the words of Jesus Christ, her fortitude in the face of danger and something touches the core of his being. He resolves to know this ‘God’ Elijah worships.
Ona’s performance was above average, with flashes of beauty in it. Konwea’s performance energised and brightened the play. Oscillating between incredulity, insanity and outright outrage, he gave the play a piquant aspect that thrilled the audience. However, the use of actual cutlasses was a minus; wooden props serve such purposes better. Also, the resolution seems abrupt and almost contrived; a few more lines would have done the magic for Ona to properly digest the good news and then affirm his faith in the real God he’d counterfeited all along.
There was choreographed dance that preceded the play by The Spirit of Truth, the dance group of The Pater’s Heritage. The director of the groups Chiadika promised that the performance would be a monthly affair. The next performance comes up on September 13 at 5pm at the same venue. The dance and music performance is titled Siloam while Romancing The Night is title for the play.