The Party House celebrates the bacchanal that is the college experience. For millions of people every year they get to have the kind of free-fall rush that is college. What that means is every emotion they will ever experience in their lives will be introduced in college. Before college people have some idea of what the world will offer them. Upon reaching college they find themselves free of any kind of responsibility. While it crushes some people, this freedom, it liberates others. Olivia Lilley essentially re-creates the college experience at its fevered pitch, at its most insane and almost unbelievable. Yet for every college graduate, they have fond memories of maybe not this precise Party House, but a similar house, maybe a “Fuck It” house or similar kind of venerable institution.
Characters within the Party House live weird strange lives where very little seems logical. People walk around half or fully naked. Individuals have their ultimate expression of themselves, trying to make art, trying to be endlessly weird. Youth seems to suit these characters well as it is impossible to picture these individuals as anything but college students. For only college students could get away with this kind of behavior. Graduation from college makes this kind of behavior frowned upon. College students essentially are given a free pass to do every possible stupid thing they have ever wanted to do in their lives. Olivia Lilley points this complete and utter freedom her characters experience.
With the huge amount of freedom her characters make ridiculous, insane choices that in any other environment would make no sense whatsoever. Yet the logic that runs college life is far different from what runs life outside of college. Relationships end not due to a incompatibility but to the need to read more books, the need to sleep in bed alone, and other almost minuscule problems that otherwise do not exist in reality. For college suspends reality, letting it go away from a moment. Even within the play a few characters mention this, most prominently Richard who apparently is almost an adult, clinging onto the spirit that the house offers.
Olivia Lilley takes on the sadness that college provides its students. The amount of rejection and disappointment that occurs in college seems to sting more, since for many it is the first time they have to handle these emotions in an emotionally elevated replica of reality. Many of her characters are hurt throughout the play, rejected, losing, seeing their environment slowly crumble away as the harsh reality starts to come into view, reminding them that this Party House can go on for only so long. In “The Party House” Olivia Lilley vividly captures both the joy and pain of college in equal doses.
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