The Public Theater is blazing with “Party People,” a retrospective look at the days when the Black Panthers were fighting racism and The Young Lords were battling for the Hispanic community. The sign “Revolution” is prominent in the background, and the production, developed and directed by Liesl Tommy, is a fierce blend of song and dialogue. It is often too shrill and overstated, but the show has guts and furthermore, ties the past to the present in ways that proclaim issues yet to be resolved.
The authorship is credited to Universes: Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp and William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja. The music is composed by Universes with Broken Chord, and choreography is by Millicent Johnnie. Obviously much collective creativity has gone into producing this blast about the past.
There is passionate castigation of how FBI and local authorities viciously attacked avowed revolutionaries, as when in Chicago in 1969 Black Panther Fred Hampton was brutally shot to death in a raid on his living quarters. At one point an honor roll of heroes and victims is projected.
There are recollections of the pressures that led one man to be an informer, and there is depiction of how concern over who might be a betrayer unfairly resulted in the torture of one who was innocent.
The show emerges as a cavalcade of past action and memories. Don’t expect objectivity, such as an evaluation of how much the violent advocacy by the revolutionaries contributed to the reactions against them. This is clearly a salute to those who wanted to make a difference and right the wrongs inflicted in society, and the injustices done to victims for their activity and fervor.
The creativity lies in the way all is integrated by a large cast, including the authors, with many highlights giving individual performers the opportunity for the spotlight. The entire show is extremely intense, and although it gets repetitive and over-long, its passion commands attention and appreciation, and the overall perspective adds to our remembrance of those turbulent times.
The elephant in the room is the election of Donald Trump as President and the new feelings of rage that he has aroused, plus the outrage caused by the continued killing of African- Americans by police. We have our own turbulent times, and the production connects the present with the past in a thought-provoking, dynamic style. At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. Phone: 21-967-7555. Reviewed November 17, 2016.