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Walkin' Talkin' Bill Hawkins 

Less about the story than about the history of '40s and '50s radio

Wednesday, Jan 11 2006
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W. Allen Taylor teeters on the edge between therapy and art in his intriguing one-man show about his search for the father he never knew -- who turned out to be Bill Hawkins, the first black disc jockey in Cleveland. Hawkins doesn't appear onstage till the last moment, but Taylor pieces him together through compellingly acted characters reminiscing about his dad, and intersperses it all with an eclectically delicious soundtrack celebrating the legacy of black radio. Taylor is a College of Marin theater teacher and skilled Broadway veteran who particularly shines in his riveting portrayals of older women (including his protective mother) and of the hepcat DJ who embodies the author's bittersweet voice of anger and curiosity. But the show, in development for more than six years, lacks a compellingly urgent narrative flow and offers little emotional insight into the central fixation, Bill Hawkins. It works more as an interesting history of '40s and '50s Cleveland radio and as a peephole into a local performer's life work, searching for -- and perhaps never finding -- his father.

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Nathaniel Eaton

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