By Andrew Andrews

Mary E. Hodges, Bristol Pomeroy, Sheila Joon Ostadazim, Adam Couperthwaite, Curtis M. Jackson, Tim Rush, Tinuke Adetunji, Jay Ward and John Dewey perform Robert Bowie Jr’s play Onaje under director Pat Golden at the New York International Fringe Festival. Cast photo by Gerry Goodstein.

Nearly thirty years ago, Cambridge (MA) native Robert Bowie, Jr. (pronounced “Boo-ey,” like the Maryland suburb) wrote There Ain’t No Wyoming, an amateur play about a black man who hitches a ride east from Nevada with a white man and his fiancée, discovering along the way that their families were on opposite sides of the Cambridge (MD) Riots of 1967, more than a decade earlier.

Now, half a century after the civil rights movement intended to settle the matters of discrimination and marginalization, Bowie has upgraded the work and rebranded it Onaje for the New York International Fringe Festival, giving us the opportunity to ask how much has changed since the sixties, and what might it take to finally heal.

“The play has been substantially improved, shortened, focused, with scene changes added and subtracted and supplemented,” Bowie explains. “Language has been edited and added to sharpen the story.”

The drifter, William, A.K.A. Onaje (Curtis M. Jackson), fled Delmarva during the riots after being falsely accused of participating in them.

The driver, Richard (Adam Couperthwaite), is the son of a former Klansman (Bristol Pomeroy) who was part of a posse, led by an ex-cop (Tim Rush), that mobbed William’s home and forced him to whip a white liberal hitchhiker from Boston (John Dewey), whom William’s parents (Jay Ward and Mary E. Hodges) were sheltering for the night.

With Tinuke Adetunji as William’s sister, Sheila Joon Ostadazim as the fiancée and Pat Golden directing, Bowie’s revised story belittles the “us versus them” mentality that pits Americans against each other and disgraces those that adhere to it, championing instead the message that “you lose the hate when you work side by side and you share the suffering of another.”

One could argue that it’s the same moral of compassion and cooperation that we read from The War Party a few nights ago.

Only the names have been changed.

And the decade.

And the location.

And the situation.

Which makes us wonder: when will this lesson be learned?

If you didn’t already get the message, tickets are still available for this Thursday’s performance, but the weekend has already sold out.

After you’ve seen the show, be sure to come back and tell us what you gained from the experience.

Your review can help others decide whether Onaje has a lesson in it for them, and your ratings help us help you find future performances you’re sure to love!


Andrew Andrews attended Onaje at FringeHUB in Manhattan on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 @ 12:34pm to write this review.