New York City
Written in 1939, JB Priestley’s Johnson Over Jordan follows the afterlife of Robert Johnson, a seemingly ordinary man who has died of pneumonia at the age of 51. Inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Priestley puts Johnson in a condition of what the Book of the Dead calls bardo, a kind of purgatorial intermediate state after the body has died but before the soul has been subsumed into the universe. And in this state of bardo, Johnson takes an extraordinary journey, a post-mortem dream of memories, hopes and regrets in which he is forced to recognize his failings and flaws and strip away all sentiment to see his true self.
Far more Franz Kafka than Frank Capra, Johnson Over Jordan is a surreal and spiritual trip into the absurdities, mundanities, and epiphanies of a life examined. It is, as its author described it, “an adventure in theater.” It is a drama, a mystery, a meditation on life and death and everything in between.
Final performance: April 7, 2024