Amelia Ryan is a fine actress who’s well known to Fresno theater audiences. However, her Rogue show — an ode to court reporting titled “State Your Name for the Record” — just doesn’t work.
Ryan creates a character named Mrs. Conway, who is holding an open house at Mountain View College of Court Reporting. Our host is an outspoken advocate for court reporters — as is Ryan — and hopes to teach visitors a little about what her students are learning.
There are problems with the show in terms of consistent tone and structure. There’s a promise of comedy in the beginning, when Mrs. Conway calls “roll,” but it slips away. There’s social commentary, with Mrs. Conway offering some barbed critiques of a broken criminal justice system. But it, too, never feels comfortably woven into the narrative.
What we’re left with are two halves awkwardly joined together. The first is a primer on court reporting, including an explanation of how court reporters manage to transcribe speech so quickly and accurately. (I learned a lot, but it’s a lot of information for an audience to absorb, particularly in a show’s crucial early moments when it’s trying to bridge a connection with an audience.) Then the show shifts into Mrs. Conway reading from court transcripts. The idea is that she’s giving her students practice — and also sharing with us some cases that particularly interest her.
Ryan has some nice moments while reading the transcripts, playing the roles of prosecutor, witness, judge and defense attorney. Using different voices, she makes those characters come alive. The final case, about a young schizophrenic man accused of murder, is chilling. But by then it’s too late to make a case for this show. What it needs is a rewrite and some strong direction.
Details: 8 p.m. March 2, 8 p.m. March 5, 11 p.m. March 7, 6:30 p.m. March 8, Neighborhood Thrift. $10.