Karen’s Review of Party People:
As the second of this season’s plays in the OSF American Revolutions: The United States History Project, “Party People” struck closer to my personal experience than had “All the Way” the day before. Not only because I lived in close proximity through the events portrayed, but also because a colleague of mine had been shot by a member of the Black Panthers, in spite of her role as one of their defense attorneys.
The production (it is so much more than a “play”) was conceived, created and performed by UNIVERSES, a dozen actors/singers/dancers/composers/political activists who incorporate all of these skills into their work. The result is a multi-media, multi-emotional experience.
This is an ensemble piece with the performers exuding an intense focus married to an incredible energy output onstage. The 100 seat venue puts the audience into the heart of the action. Black, white, brown, young, older, fat, thin, hippie, punk, men, women: twelve actors speaking, singing, dancing and witnessing. Articulate even in the midst of the immense amount of activity, every word – sung or spoken – could be heard and understood.
The production deals with some of the hard issues that existed when the Black Panthers and the Young Lords were formed (police brutality, lack of services in certain neighborhoods, and social inequality), along with the inevitable results of organizing into a formal, identifiable group (spies and infiltrators, standing up for what you believe, and putting your life on the line).
My sense of that period of time is that there were victims on all sides, of all colors and in every socio-economic strata. This production acknowledges that “truth” while focusing on the people most affected by these conditions, as well as the response to the efforts of the Panthers and the Young Lords by those in power.