Theater review: Powerful acting shines in USF’s controversial ‘How to Fight Loneliness’

Karl Hugh, Utah Shakespeare Festival

“How to Fight Loneliness,” written by contemporary playwright Neil LaBute, runs through Oct. 14 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

HOW TO FIGHT LONELINESS,” through Oct. 14, Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, 150 W. Center, Cedar City (435-586-7700 or; running time: 2 hours (no intermission)

CEDAR CITY — If you plan a trip down to Cedar City to see Utah Shakespeare Festival’s “How to Fight Loneliness,” bring a suitcase large enough to include all of the play’s emotional baggage.

A box of Kleenex wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

Because “How to Fight Loneliness,” which runs through Oct. 14, will stay with you long after the actors take a bow.

That was certainly the case after the matinee show on Wednesday, Aug. 30. As audience members filed out of the intimate Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, multiple conversations discussing the play’s heavy subject matter could be overheard.

The contemporary play, written by Brigham Young University graduate Neil LaBute, introduces its audience to a married couple, Jodie and Brad. Although it’s clear that the husband and wife care deeply for each other, a prolonged silence between the two indicates that something is plaguing their relationship.

The lack of dialogue at the start of the play is worth noting, as it leads the characters to tell their story solely through facial expressions and actions. The powerful acting, combined with the intimate black box theater setup, immediately places the audience in the heart of the couple’s troubles.

For the first several minutes, viewers watch Jodie and Brad navigate the small stage with little actions that convey a much larger anxiety: turn on the record player, move the platter of food on the table, pour a drink, put the platter of food back in its original place, repeat.

The silence is eventually broken and the audience learns that the couple is expecting a visitor — an impending arrival that seems to create mixed emotions. When their guest, Tate, finally shows up, the three characters humorously dance around…

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