‘Jordans’ Off Broadway Review: If This Wild Comedy Isn’t an Homage to Jordan Peele, It Should Be

If you liked Jordan Peele’s horror comedy “Get Out,” you’re going to love Ife Olujobi’s horror comedy “Jordans,” which opened Wednesday at the Public Theater.

Is it pure coincidence that Peele’s first name is Jordan, and Olujobi has written a play that’s about two characters who are named Jordan? The similarities don’t end there. Both “Get Out” and “Jordans” clock in as many gasps as they do laughs. More significant, each work sets Black characters — one in “Get Out,” two in “Jordans” — who find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of living and working in a white-run world.

Where “Get Out” takes place at a high-end suburban barbeque, Olujobi sets “Jordan” in a high-end Manhattan studio where ads and photographs for fashion and other products (self-help books, sodas, etc.) are produced. When a tall and beautiful female model walked out in the first of Gween Jean’s glitzy over-the-top costumes, I had to let out a sigh of relief. Plays staged in New York City’s nonprofit Off Broadway theaters can get a little — how should I put this? — dreary. But here is the kind of show where a guy who watches “Eyes of Laura Mars” and “The Devil Wears Prada” at least once a year can really sit back and enjoy himself.

The gasps start early when the studio’s boss (Kate Walsh, who recalls both Faye Dunaway and Meryl Streep) throws a cup of coffee in the face of the studio’s receptionist-gofer Jordan (Naomi Lorrain). Olujobi and director Whitney White have a way of repeatedly bringing the subtext to the fore to both bracing and comic effect.

The other Jordan (Toby Onwumere) shows up when the boss decides she needs to bring some relevancy to her business. This second Jordan is hired to be the “director of culture.” Jordan No. 2 thinks he has an immediate bond with Jordan No. 1 who has worked at the studio for five years. The first Jordan wants nothing to do with him, but they have a dinner date anyway and White’s direction provides a simple, stunning scene change that I won’t give away here.

Also delightful is how the first Jordan, hard at work, goes about setting up other scenes while the studio’s white staff pontificate about life, careers and nothing else of much importance. Some of Olujobi’s best writing is given to these confabs, whether it is the guys bragging about their latest sexual conquest or the staff brainstorming about using a prison motif to sell the latest Rolex rip-off.

This staff (Bronte England-Nelson, Brian Muller, Matthew Russell, Ryan Spahn and Meg Steedle) treats the two Jordans as if they were one person, an insult that the first Jordan uses to her advantage. This review will not reveal more except to say that Olujobi has written a doozy of a story, and one that is much less predictable than “Get Out.”

White’s direction only falters at the very end. The mayhem that concludes “Jordans” needs to be delivered fast, and not with such deliberation. More stage blood might also help.

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