'Jordans' review — a workplace drama that goes above and beyond

Read our review of Jordans off Broadway, a world-premiere play written by Ife Olujobi and directed by Obie Award winner Whitney White at The Public Theater.

Austin Fimmano
Austin Fimmano

Jordans is Ife Olujobi’s debut play at The Public Theater, and they are pulling no punches. Their play dives fearlessly into the horrors of being Black in the workplace, portraying the complicated relationship of two young Black professionals forced together by their white company, each struggling to carve their own place in it. It’s doubly difficult when they're both named Jordan.

The first Jordan we meet is a receptionist (Naomi Lorrain) who’s been pouring her blood, sweat, and tears into Atlas Studios, the trendy event space where she works. Her dreams of moving up in the company seem about to become reality when her boss decides, in a conference meeting laden with problematic language, that the company needs to create a new role to promote “diversity” and “culture.”

But Jordan is shocked when an unknown Black man (Toby Onwumere) walks through the door soon after, introducing himself as Jordan (or, as he’s called in the script, 1.Jordan). What follows is nothing less than psychological warfare as the Jordans slowly become indistinguishable to their white coworkers and lose touch with reality. The play promises the otherworldly, and though it waits till the second act to ramp this theme up, Jordans certainly delivers.

For most of the show, Jordan is the only one setting up and breaking down the meticulously detailed sets (the marvelous work of Matt Saunders). In a memorable scene at dinner with 1.Jordan, Jordan single-handedly turns the conference room set into a chic restaurant date by pulling props, Mary Poppins-like, out of an enormous tote bag as 1.Jordan chats, oblivious to her labor.

The physical and visual comedy in Jordans is top-notch. It’s also excellent comedic relief to the darker themes and creepier scenes of the play, such as Jordan having hot coffee intentionally poured on her face or Hailey, the boss, feeling up 1.Jordan when they first meet.

Jordans is sharp, chilling, and twistedly funny even at its darkest. There is good reason for its numerous content warnings, but if you can stomach a little blood, sex, and violence for the sake of great satire, you’ll be richly rewarded. Olujobi’s writing paired with the direction of Whitney White (fresh off of Jaja’s African Hair Braiding on Broadway) makes for a thrill ride full of tension and laughs.

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Jordans summary

In the world premiere of Olujobi’s new play, a young Black receptionist named Jordan (a luminous Lorrain) suffers her insufferable workplace without a complaint. She puts in the work to feed her simmering ambition but goes mostly unnoticed by her exclusively white coworkers and Miranda Priestly-like boss Hailey (a frighteningly good Kate Walsh).

Still, Jordan thinks she’s got her life and career under control until the company brings in a new hire as “cultural director" to improve their image: a Black man also named Jordan (Onwumere). The two Jordans clash with increasing ferocity while enduring the maddening behavior of their coworkers. Before too long, neither of them can be sure of what’s real as their lives spin out of their control in increasingly strange ways.

What to expect at Jordans

On the top floor of the Public, the music playing while the audience settles in can only be described as “angry” - think “Crazy” by Doechii, and then make it a playlist. The music contrasts Jordan’s outward coolness at the start, but it’s a pretty clear hint as to where the narrative is heading. The show can get pretty dark, but Jordans is a comedy as much as it is anything else. In particular, Lorrain's fantastic facial expressions and physical comedy never failed to get my audience laughing.

Content warnings for Jordans include sexually explicit content, nudity, vomit, violence, and blood. The production also uses herbal cigarettes, haze, and strobe lights. Clocking in at around 2 hours, the first act feels a little long by the time it wraps up. Act 2, however, will sweep you off your feet as it hurtles toward an explosive end — which earned a standing ovation at my performance.

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What audiences are saying about Jordans

Jordans currently has a 67% approval rating on Show-Score. Some users stated that they were put off by runtime and the violence in the second act. However, others praised the acting, the satire, and the show’s relevance.

  • “This play captures truth, anger & absurdity of racism & sexism which many have experienced in life. Great acting & directing.” -Show-Score user DOUG Rob NYC
  • “I think perhaps this play bit off more than it can chew…that said, this playwright has a strong voice and creates an enjoyable uncomfortable experience throughout.” -Show-Score user C 337
  • “Some moments were funny and some were thought-provoking, but some were over-the-top and detracted from the play.” -Show-Score user MaxD

Read more audience reviews of Jordans on Show-Score.

Who should see Jordans

  • Lovers of black comedy movies like Bottoms or Jordan Peele’s filmography will adore the twists leading up to the bloody finale and the way race and horror are intertwined.
  • Fans of Kate Walsh will relish her in the part of Hailey, reminiscent of her Emily in Paris or Umbrella Academy roles but with a much more visceral creep factor.
  • Anyone looking for meaningful commentary on race in the American workplace should see Olujobi’s fresh and unbridled take on it.

Learn more about Jordans off Broadway

Jordans is not for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly a fun and wild ride. Come for the impressive cast and stage design and stay for the laughs — as long as you can handle a little blood.

Learn more and get Jordans tickets on New York Theatre Guide. Jordans is at The Public Theater through May 12.

Photo credit: Jordans off Broadway. (Photos by Joan Marcus)

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