“Jordans” is an absurd, surreal black comedy

People are sitting around a table.
The company in the world premiere production of Jordans, written by Ife Olujobi and directed by Whitney White. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Toby Onwumere is sitting on a white sofa looking at Naomi Lorrain who is standing.
Toby Onwumere and Naomi Lorrain in the world premiere production of Jordans, written by Ife Olujobi and directed by Whitney White. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Ife Olujobi is a playwright to remember. Her new play Jordans is now playing at the Public Theater’s LuEsther Hall. Jordans has nothing to do with shoes; it is a shocking, engrossing look at modern-day corporate mentality, race and class divides, ego, privilege, and much more. Don’t miss it.

Olujobi, partnered with director Whitney White, creates the Atlas agency, run by the overbearing Hailey (Kate Walsh). Hailey is a female CEO who thinks and speaks in half-formed sentences filled with business babble. She uses her status to overrule any of her employees — “idea people” Emma (Brontë England-Nelson), Maggie (Meg Steedle), and Tyler (Matthew Russell), photographer Ryan (Ryan Spahn), and videographer Fletcher (Brian Muller) — should they give her something she has not thought of before. Low person on the office totem pole is Jordan (Naomi Lorrain), the only black employee, who does the day-to-day work that keeps the agency going — everything the others believe is beneath them.

Deciding that Atlas needs to be more “socially relevant” to compete, Hailey hires a new “Diversity Consultant”, a black man also named Jordan (Toby Onwumere). Ambitious male Jordan thinks he can make a difference at Atlas. Female Jordan cannot believe his naivety and rejects his attempts to forge a friendship based on their shared race and his need for her help navigating office politics. 

No one else at Atlas can tell the two Jordans apart. They are treated as interchangeable. When the Atlas staff creates a “prison experience” event for an ex-con rapper’s album release, things spin out of control.

Matt Saunders has created Atlas’ sterile, empty office environment, all glass and chrome and light woods and beige tones, a perfect neutral background for photo shoots and video production. A sliding, revolving side wall and change of furniture turns the space into male Jordan’s apartment. Dramatic yet appropriate lighting by Cha See enhances the stage environment; Qween Jean’s costumes define office status, from the casual outfits of the office creative staff to Hailey’s dresses that emphasize her long, well-toned legs.

Jordans is not for the squeamish. The show has depictions of sexual activity and physical violence, and the language and attitudes in it might be offensive to some. It is, however, a wild ride for the adventurous, with a sharp, satirical tongue. It is surreal and absurd in the best traditions of Ionesco and Beckett. Above all, it is the sound of a new voice in the theatre, that of playwright Ife Olujobi, demanding to be heard. You owe it to yourself to see Jordans before its run ends; you’ll regret it if you miss it.

Jordans is presented in LuEsther Hall by the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street in New York through May 12th, 2024. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to publictheater.org or call 212-967-7555.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.