Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor once said that a good man is hard to find. A self-described progressive with an overabundance of education and living in the Deep South, Dawn Larsen can sing you a song — or ten — about heartache in Trump country. In her solo performance offering at this year’s Cincinnati Fringe Festival, Larsen guides her audience on a harrowing, musical journey into the chaotic and confusing world of online dating.
When she appears onstage, Larsen curtsies and then quickly cuts to the chase, studiously defining the words ‘vicious’ and ‘hillbilly’ and asserting that both labels apply directly to her. Raised in the Ozarks and now residing in South Carolina, Larsen says she married young, partied hard in her thirties and then got divorced. All of which leads to her current situation: trying to find someone new — and someone suitable — to share life with. Larsen swears her criteria for a male companion are simple. He must bathe. He must have teeth. He must be polysyllabic.
Doesn’t seem like too much for a girl to ask?!
Yet as Larsen devours dating advice and summarizes herself into tidy online profiles, she swipes left and left and left again. Through a series of hilarious — yet deeply disappointing — dates, Larsen learns a thing or two, which she distills into ten (plus a bonus!) life-and-love lessons and then channels into her music.
Though Larsen’s storytelling could use further tightening and polish, her songs are satisfying, soulful tunes. Larsen uses a variety of musical genres to capture her adventures and convey her mood: a clever homage to country music for drunken reverie, a delicious murder ballad for her rage and, of course, the blues to convey sadness. The show has a conversational, informal feel. Larsen could be your closest friend, sitting in your kitchen, humming along to Patsy Cline and sipping moonshine from a teacup as she spins you a yarn about looking for love.