Native Chicoan-gone-starlet returns for local theater production

Amanda Detmer preps for Blue Room production of <i>God of Carnage</i>.

Amanda Detmer preps for Blue Room production of God of Carnage.

Photo By michael gannon

God of Carnage shows at the Blue Room Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m., Jan. 17-25, with a preview night, Wed., Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m., and matinee Sun., Jan. 20, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$20.

Blue Room Theatre
139 W. First St.

Amanda Detmer, a Chico State theater alum and local stage star who has enjoyed more than 15 years of national success on TV, in movies and on the New York and Los Angeles theater circuit, is coming home.

Detmer will assume the role of Veronica in the Blue Room Theatre’s production of God of Carnage, a dark one-act comedy that explores the behavior of two couples and the escalating friction that can occur when four normally civilized, reasonable adults try to solve a conflict between their children following a playground scuffle. When the others are not persuaded by her words, Veronica loses her poise and conversation escalates into dysfunction.

“Veronica tries really hard to get everyone to listen,” Detmer said by phone from the San Fernando Valley home she shares with her husband and 3 1/2-year-old son, “but all her true colors come out. … One of the great lines is, ‘How many parents, when standing up for their children, become infantile themselves?’”

Detmer in a 2007 episode of <i>Law & Order: Criminal Intent</i>.

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The return-home engagement comes on the heels of a busy autumn for Detmer, who completed her first main-stage role in almost 20 years with a six-week run at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. There, Detmer co-starred as a 1930s movie starlet in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, a social exploration of Depression-era African-American performers in Hollywood. Detmer can also be seen in a new short indie film, For Spacious Sky, shot locally and directed and produced by her friend of 25 years, Coy Middlebrook, who is also directing God of Carnage.

Detmer’s movie-acting credits over the past 13 years include Saving Silverman, Drop Dead Gorgeous and You, Me and Dupree; recent TV projects include recurring characters on Necessary Roughness and Private Practice, a co-starring role in What About Brian, and appearances in episodes of The Mentalist, Psych, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

“I’m just really excited; Chico’s my home and I love it,” said Detmer, a 1995 Chico State theater arts grad whose local roots run especially deep, as her great-grandparents’ Christensen Dairy flourished in Chico some 90 years ago. “People always say about me that we can take the girl out of Chico, but you can’t take Chico out of the girl.”

The Blue Room’s production of God of Carnage, which earned a Tony Award for Best Play in 2009, includes other successful performing artists who cut their dramatic teeth at Chico State. Johnny Lancaster (1994 degree in English), an actor and nationally in-demand voiceover artist, plays Veronica’s husband, Michael, and Michael Gannon (1994 Chico State theater arts grad), now a Los Angeles actor and producer, plays Alan, a cell-phone-addicted lawyer. Daniela Mastropietro, an actor, playwright, and co-artistic director of New York’s LabRats Theatre Company, fills the role of Alan’s wife, Annette.

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A nationally renowned director, Middlebrook is a Chico-based drama prodigy who was a Chico State Theatre Arts Department assistant director and choreographer while still in high school and a co-founder of the old Chico City Light Opera at the age of 21.

Middlebrook first saw God of Carnage in Germany and thought it would be a great acting vehicle for the old Chico theater crew. Blue Room Artistic Director Fred Stuart said that the seeds for bringing this production to Chico were sewn back in 2011 during the Butcher Shop, the Blue Room’s free, outdoor collection of guerilla theater productions.

“Coy initially brought this title up when we were hanging out at Butcher Shop 2011, and I said I had seen it in New York City and thought it would be a great vehicle for all of them,” Stuart said, adding that they also needed to wait for the production rights to become available.

The players are extremely committed to the Blue Room production. The logistically challenged cast came together for recent rehearsals in Los Angeles, with Lancaster and Mastropietro each flying in from New York twice. Detmer said she’ll arrive in Chico four or five days before opening night.

Looking ahead for 2013, Detmer said her recent L.A. theater stint was satisfying and gratifying, but there weren’t enough financial rewards to make a steady habit of it. Instead, she remains optimistic that her next TV pilot role will stick.

“I’m the pilot girl,” she said. “I’ve done 22 pilots, and nine were picked up.” She said that, in addition to talent, success comes from a combination of many factors, including timing and luck. But Detmer has another idea for a TV role.

“You want another reality show? Do one that follows a struggling working actress.”