Members say: Ambitious, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great singing, Disappointing

About the show

The Public Theater presents the New York premiere of Universes' explosive new work about the complicated legacies of the original Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.

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Inspired by dozens of interviews with members of these groundbreaking, society-changing groups, this unconventional show imagines a present-day reunion at an art opening curated by two young counterculturalist. But these new radicals have complex relationships with the Party members, who fought injustice and provided free food and medical care for their communities—often at the expense of the people who loved them most. Old wounds and generational divides collide in this multimedia theatrical event about the price of being a revolutionary, and what it means for those who come after.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


"Nonstop music, movement, and energy undergirded by scant thematic substance…As Primo, Ruiz portrays the most insufferable theatrical creation in recent memory…It all feels incredibly exploitative with very little redeeming value…Liesl Tommy delivers a production that does little to clarify the haphazard script and regularly skimps on the basics of efficient direction…This is unfortunate since this tireless cast seems more than game for any physical challenge thrown their way." Full Review


"Millicent Johnnie's choreography imitates the rebellious demands for freedom that these demonstrators took to the streets, backed by a lively musical score of Latin, funk and soul...After an election that has left many feeling that their rights and physical well-beings are in danger (yes, there is a mention of our president-elect) 'Party People' is enormously relevant, as Americans keep finding new ways to band together to express their outrage and work for change." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“Two young men are introduced in the process of putting together an evening of performance art to explore the ways in which the activism of their forebears might be carried out in the present. This apparently includes gassy monologues, overacting, and a mortifying clown show…However much this history needs to be explored, merely relating facts and demonstrating atrocities does very little to elucidate the matter. Brutality comes to seem not just the cause of action but a motive in itself." Full Review

Time Out New York

“A wildly ambitious and overstuffed homage to grassroots activism and in-fighting among the Black Panthers and the Young Lords…’Party People’ is nothing if not kinesthetically engaged…The piece is a researched yet original blend of docu-musical, family comedy, live video and hip-hop, defiantly unstable and sprawling...As it is, 'Party People' is a galvanizing education for the young (or ignorant) and a provocation to everyone to take sides." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"This is rich, rich material and the biggest problem with 'Party People' is that it tries to mine the entire lode, raising fascinating questions but never exploring them in enough detail...'Party People' runs about two and a half hours, but that isn't nearly enough time to deal with the teeming cast of characters or to consider the complex, troubling issues that it raises...If 'Party People' is something of a mess, it's a lively, provocative one - riveting and irritating in equal measure." Full Review

The New York Times

"In the current political climate, it may be the most frightening and exciting piece of theater now up...'Party People' derives its language, vibrant and volatile, from actual interviews. Yet the storytelling is less than cohesive...It is too long, too unfocused and perhaps too democratic...Yet in a room full of people distraught and enraged by the election of Trump, 'Party People' felt heartbreakingly timely and intensely necessary." Full Review

New York Theater

"Powerful and intelligent documentary theater—although the documentary theater part struggles for attention amidst all the other elements of this lively, sprawling, overlong play/musical/multi-media hip-hop performance art piece...'Party People' is full of intriguing historical tidbits, exciting choreography, rhythmic singing, galvanizing fist-pumping, suspenseful encounters and poignant moments–too full, actually. It’s overstuffed and unfocused." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"It's preaching to the choir, of course, and knows full well what buttons to press-like a crack at Donald Trump's expense-to get the responses it seeks, but for all its freeform dramaturgy, stereotypical characters, and simplified conflicts, it has an infectious nonstop energy and point of view that you enjoy for its performative values while also discovering that it might influence your behavior, even if you're not a Marxist-Maoist ideologue." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"A rousing, raucous play-with-music...The entertainment, which begins the powerful, if from time to time polemical, work—and is choreographed to a foot-stomping, arm-raising fare-thee-well by Millicent Johnnie—is something to behold...Sly and leavening humor crops up occasionally...Considering what’s afoot nationally right this minute, 'Party People' has the potential to stir up as much of a societal kerfuffle as 'Hair.'" Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Something of a mess, with so much on its mind that it ends up not saying much of anything at all…None of it, though, makes following the myriad plot threads any easier; there are just too many for any of them to receive the necessary amount of development time, especially given the raft of musical numbers applied on top...It also does not help that only a few of the performers, who are all skilled, are charismatic enough to jolt you into the realm of caring.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"I’m not sure if knowledge of history will save us from repeating it, but I know it can’t hurt. For this reason alone, I would urge you to see 'Party People'...It’s riveting, fast-paced, well-written and performed by a versatile and talented cast...Hard questions, asked with sensitivity and unbearable timeliness, 'Party People' will resonate with everyone who sees it whether you lived through the '60s or not. Kudos to everyone involved." Full Review


“At times, ‘Party People’ is confusing as it tends to blur time and place so that it is not always clear what is happening in the present and what happened in the past. The show also has several false endings before the real one which is hauntingly moving. ‘Party People’ which is too long and could use a bit of tweaking is nevertheless a powerful, inventive investigation into a history and an era which has almost been forgotten in a time when many of the same issues are still being fought.” Full Review

Theater In The Now

"A powerful and provocative piece of art about art and activism spanning generations...'Party People' is more of an idea than a well-made theatrical story. Tommy would have been better served to allow the story to unfold rather than hammer a message in...This ensemble carried the weight of the world on their shoulders. They worked wondrously as a unit...But there was something off with 'Party People.' With disconnect and lack of cohesion, 'Party People' is not as strong as it could be." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"The production 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 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." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"An unusually timely work. Those old rallying cries certainly still pack a powerful rhetorical punch, which reverberates throughout the lively musical sequences…Under Liesl Tommy’s direction, the play can also become clunky whenever it tries to shift from a provocative Brechtian approach to a more self-effacing naturalistic style. There is nonetheless a continual sense of messy vibrancy here. The ensemble genuinely seems to be trying to work it all out on stage." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"Director Liesl Tommy uses every theatrical device she can find to recreate 40 years of history...A mostly excellent cast of black, brown and white actors, led by longtime UNIVERSES members Willie Ruiz, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp and Steven Sapp, portrays a full panoply of characters…At nearly three hours, the show could use some pruning and yet there are many moments of sheer exhilaration, particularly for people unhappy with the current political situation." Full Review


"Doesn’t live up to its grand ambitions...The cast has massive energy, singing, dancing, reciting tirelessly. But they’re pushing boulders uphill: The evening is overstuffed, overlong, and overblown. There is much emotion, little of it used to build character from caricature, and the complexities and legacies of both Panthers and Lords feel unexplored at the end of the exhausting night’s work. It’s not a fun party, nor a rewarding one." Full Review

Village Voice

"A passionate ode to the radical histories of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, exploring the necessity and danger of revolutionary dissent. Its timing couldn't be more apt…Between scenes, montage-style song and dance sequences explore the history of the parties, black and Puerto Rican identity, and the new generation's anxieties…These sequences are raucously enjoyable, but it's the quieter moments that sink in." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"'Party People,' a raw, raucous new musical, is protesting injustice and intolerance–both in the past and the present. It’s a bold, brave semi-documentary…This provocative work looks back on two radical political groups from the '60s...Interviews and conversations are interspersed with a mélange of hip hop and Latino song-and-dance numbers performed by a vibrant company of multiracial performers…Kudos to the OSF for keeping the historic home fires burning." Full Review


"The combination of historical documentary and a meta-theatrical plot can be difficult to navigate at times...But the structural foibles are easy to look past when you consider the power of its performances and its staggering, gut-punching relevance...In the aftermath of an election cycle featuring some of the most racially charged rhetoric in decades, this is a work that has taken on a different kind of resonance and urgency...That makes it one of the most important shows on stage today." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"A brilliant collaboration of talents, highlighted by the finest ensemble cast that I have ever had the privilege to behold. More than that: it is a very fine play…It couldn’t be more timely. Director Liesl Tommy has done a masterful job here and she couldn’t have done it without Millicent Johnnie’s rousing choreography…I’ve never written these words before: 'Party People' is an important play. So, please do yourself a favor, and RUN to see it." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The inclusive casting of all ages and ethnicities unites to tell the story as an informative presentation of this sensitive material. With bilingual songs and dialogue, dancing and reciting spoken word, this cast is a dynamo...Liesl Tommy’s direction is exciting and adds an energy that is explosive...This show is passionate, tempestuous, turbulent and a must-see in this political climate." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“An exciting and provocative history lesson…It is a much-needed addition to our dialogue; although it is sometimes difficult to follow, the overall effect is intense…The main problem that arises while watching this provocative musical is that the young curators seem foolish in comparison with their elders. This may very well be the point, but it is also a structural problem…The musical numbers representing the historic battle become the most powerful moments of this uneven musical.” Full Review

SF Gate

for a previous production "That conflict is part of a complex vision that makes 'Party' as intellectually stimulating as its fluid, nonstop action is overwhelming. The Panthers and the Lords are celebrated for their vision, courage and community programs. But they’re criticized as well…Intense, sharply performed scenes — from Oakland to Chicago and beyond — alternate with showstopping numbers by a charismatic Sapp, the irresistible Ruiz and magnetic Ruiz-Sapp…Power to the people, indeed." Full Review

San Jose Mercury News

for a previous production "This is a powerful and raw documentary theater piece. While the nearly three-hour play feels too long and convoluted, it’s also an engrossing examination of the generation that believed in trying to change the world. Directed by Liesl Tommy and starring a riveting ensemble, ‘Party’ is an alternately thrilling and frustrating study of counterculture movements…If you let the production wash over you like a jagged theatrical collage, 'Party' will leave its mark on you." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Intense, Relevant

See it if you want to learn about Black Panthers & how the current millennials are channeling & honoring the older generation. Mixed media.

Don't see it if You want a clear linear story. If you don't like confrontational theatre.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated

See it if I don't really have anything good to say. I left at intermission. The story was banal and unmotivated. The songs were astoundingly bad.

Don't see it if The acting wasn't awful but the plot was...plotless. The one hard hitting moment missed its mark for me buried between bad dance and music.

Ambitious, Profound, Relevant, Resonant, Great singing

See it if you want to show with a powerful message, a talented cast, history mixing with the present to give us a show relevant to our times. Awesome!

Don't see it if You don't give a damn about events happening in society, the past or the future. Social commentary pieces are not for you.

Ambitious, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great singing

See it if you're up for a powerful, provocative history lesson about the recent past; you want to encounter the formidable talent of Mildred Ruiz Sapp

Don't see it if you can't with seriously political theater; if you don't have it in you to wait until last 20 minutes to have your socks blown off

Ambitious, Dizzying, Relevant, Slow

See it if you're unfamiliar with the history of the Black Panthers and Young Lords. While a bit too long, the music is edgy and refreshing.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with political themes or would be frightened by incredibly realistic gunshots.

Also This play is almost three hours long but covers very important subject... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Confusing, Great singing

See it if You like hip-hop musicals with a message and a loose story. Creatively written and staged and very talented performers.

Don't see it if You don't like cursing or hip-hop. Are tired of the political.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you are in need of a show that speaks directly to what is happening right now...socially, politically, economically.

Don't see it if often times clunky structure, and forced staging frustrate you.

Dizzying, Intelligent, Relevant, Confusing, Great singing

See it if you like musicals, American history, and/or bold, experimental theatre.

Don't see it if you want to avoid political activism, wrestling with the past, or don't like the use of video / screens in live theatre.

Also So this play is a real play, with a (fictional) plot, and some musical... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant

See it if you like an interesting Political Topic seen from multiple points of view. Great coverage of the Black Panther Movement.

Don't see it if you don't like distracting live cameras with multiple screens at the theatre. Aren't a fan of historical pseudo- documentary / Art pieces.

High energy, Demanding, Overwrought, yet thrilling, Self-indulgent yet powerful

See it if Some great talent in this rueful and still angry historical view of Black Panthers/Young Lords, but so needs editing! The older characters..

Don't see it if ...are the strongest, the young Primo character completely out of place. This rousing musical piece has a very dark center and is overlong.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great singing, Great staging, Uneven

See it if You want to experience a social action theater experience

Don't see it if You prefer to be shown rather than told in a show.

Ambitious, Dizzying, Intense, Relevant, Necessary

See it if you want to be left with a lot of questions and thoughts, you want to be provoked and challenged

Don't see it if you're not ready to deal with intense themes, you're not willing to experiment and try a new feel of theater

Also This is not a 'traditional' theater piece of any kind - there are non-... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Riveting, Great singing

See it if Sprawling art as revolution reflecting on themes of intergenerational activism from the sixties to cyberspace expressed in music rap &dance

Don't see it if You need a narrative instead of themes that are not linear but express idealism, commitment, betrayal and disillusionment

Also Interesting play within a play structure that explores youthful ideali... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Relevant, Disappointing, Disjointed

See it if you are interested in learning about the Black Panthers and/or Young Lords and don't mind an extremely meta approach to storytelling.

Don't see it if you're expecting a cohesive theatrical work -- there's some interesting staging ideas, but on the whole the show feels all over the place.

Absorbing, Clever, Epic, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if You believe that art holds a mirror up to life and we are at a turning point in our nation's history.

Don't see it if You voted for Donald Trump

Ambitious, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if You want a challenging piece of political theater using music, are interested in the history of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.

Don't see it if You have no interest in a play told from the perspective of Black Panther and Young Lords members years later. You don't like hip hop music.

Also My husband recognized the historical events and names referred to duri... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Entertaining, Great singing, Great dancing

See it if you are interested in the Black Panthers and Young Lords of the 1960's and how they are relevant to today's politics. Inventive staging!!

Don't see it if you are not interested in historical pieces. Also, if you need all questions answered that are raised in this production.

Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great singing

See it if You know who The Black Panther Party is/was. If you would like to see a more edgy, Hamilton-like production that's dipped in Dark Chocolate!

Don't see it if You don't currently support the "Black Lives Matter" Movement or you have never supported any organization that is considered to be radical.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Great staging

See it if You believe in the power of resistance and the power of art to fuel resistance to oppression, you want a hard-hitting night at theater

Don't see it if You are dismissive of the power of grassroots activism, you are a Trump conservative, you don't support Black Lives Matter now

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Confusing, Slow

See it if you want to learn more about Black Panthers & Puerto Rican groups in late 60's set as a musical, minority politics & compelling songs

Don't see it if setting the Black Panther story to music discomforts you, you'd like genuine character development, don't like too many visual distractions

Ambitious, Disappointing, Excellent, talented cast

See it if the history of the Black Panthers & the Young Lords interests you.

Don't see it if are looking for an escape or a quiet time at the theater

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining

See it if See if you are interested in the history of the Black Panthers and Young Lords from the 1960s on.

Don't see it if feel uncomfortable with a new form of play which centers on race relations.

Ambitious, Profound, Relevant, Banal, Overrated

See it if You like a too simplistic conception of Black Panthers and Young Lords!!!

Don't see it if You are looking for a more energetic way to dig deep into socila justices issues. Like Master Harold does on Signature Theater.

Ambitious, Earnest

See it if You are interested in a thorough history of the Panthers and the Lords, have a lot of time, and a great deal of patience.

Don't see it if Your attention span isn't unlimited, and you can't grant the creators time to show every last wrinkle in this interesting revolution story.

Dizzying, Edgy, Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you are unafraid of ambitious, dynamic theater tackling a tough topic that now more than ever should be on our minds. Very talented cast!

Don't see it if you expect a traditional storyline. Overlong and disjointed.

Cast & Creatives (24)