Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Apr 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Smoke Signals

ae_LORISIZZLES8Lori Rivera wears Multiple Personality Disorder well in sizzling “Smoke”

Humans are multi-faceted creatures, ruled by diverse and often contradictory impulses. Each of us has a sweet side and a cruel side, a brave face and a cowardly face, a capacity for smoothness and sophistication as well as for clumsiness and gullibility.

As the star of the one-woman cabaret “Smoke,” local vocalist Lori Rivera is a living portrait of humanity’s composite nature. Throughout the show, she rapidly switches back and forth between two different characters: a passionate but somewhat guileless woman named Celeste, and a sensual older woman named Francesca, who mentors Celeste in the ways of love.

“We each have the part of us that wants to believe in love and possibilities and wants to greet every day fresh, and then there’s a part of us, for those of us who have lived long enough, that is a little jaded, a little manipulative,” observes Rivera, a former member of the San Francisco vocal group The Bobs. “The story of ‘Smoke’ is really about bringing those two into balance and finding where they can both survive in one body.”

When playing the role of Francesca, Rivera adopts an Eastern European accent and uses such props as a scarf, cigarette and fortune-telling cards. Also helping the audience differentiate between the two characters is the music itself: The tunes sung by the character of Francesca, all of which feature the clarinet, have a Middle Eastern flavor and are generally in lower keys than the jazzier, more upbeat tunes sung by Celeste, putting Rivera’s voice into a deeper register that lends itself to a darker, more exotic coloration.

Joe Ortiz, composer of all music and lyrics featured in the show, notes that in the early stages of writing the songs for “Smoke,” melodies that he calls “gypsy circus tunes” began to bubble up from his imagination. “I don’t know where it came from—probably a former life,” he muses. As the show evolved, this emerging musical personality became the character of Francesca.

In contrast to the worldly, exotic Francesca, the character of Celeste exudes an innocence that Rivera envies. “She has a real naivete that I don’t really have anymore: a sense of possibility and wonder, and a youthful approach to things,” the singer notes wistfully.

Interestingly, Smoke was originally a two-woman show, with Juni Bucher playing the younger, more impressionable of the two women, and Rivera playing the more mature mentor figure.  The production has also gone through an incarnation as a three-person play that included a male character. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that Ortiz called Rivera to ask if she thought she could handle the task of performing the entire show herself. “It seemed really challenging and really intriguing, and those are two of my favorite things,” Rivera says.

Ortiz, also the co-owner of Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, has been working with Rivera since the late ’90s, when the two collaborated in Ortiz’s musical “Bread.” “Lori is so egoless, very willing to try things,” he comments. “We were changing things right up till a couple of weeks before we opened [with “Smoke”], and coming from her background as a jazz singer and being able to improvise has really helped her in this process and made my life easier.”

After a highly successful performance by Rivera in a concert titled A Universal Worship in Song, which took place at First Congregational Church this past August, Ortiz speculated that Rivera, a deeply spiritual person, might decide to quit performing in bars and devote herself to singing exclusively in churches and at spiritual events. Rivera recalls, “Joe was really adorable: He called me and said, ‘Listen, if you just want to sing spiritual music, I totally understand, and I’ll release you from “Smoke.”’ I was like, ‘How is this [cabaret] not spiritual? If one couple who would not ordinarily have made love that night goes home and because of what we’ve done onstage, they go home and make love, I consider it an amazing victory.’ That’s the coolest thing: People connecting.”

“Smoke” has indeed aroused extra-friendly feelings in many of its viewers. “There’s this point in the show almost every single time when you start to see people rubbin’ up against each other, and that’s when you know it’s working,” Rivera notes playfully.

Directed by Greg Fritsch and woven into a narrative by playwright Kathryn Chetkovich, the show, which has been performed at such venues as Carmel’s Carl Cherry Theatre, Capitola Village’s Cava Wine Bar, Capitola’s Paradise Beach Grille and Martuni’s Piano Bar in San Francisco, comes to The Kuumbwa on Friday, Sept. 25. Rivera’s husband, David Jackman of Chocolate, serves as guest chef for the occasion. Accompanying Rivera are drummer Steve Robertson, accordionist Art Alm, bassist Bill Bosch, horn player Brad Hecht and pianist Marshall Otwell. According to Ortiz, there’s an exceptional level of communication between Rivera and Otwell, the latter of whom has also played with Carmen McRae and Ernestine Anderson. “They hardly even have to talk to one another; they both know what one another are thinking,” he says. “It’s just magic to see it happen—so effortless. Two pros!”

Friday’s presentation will be a stimulating study in the many-sided nature of humans, sexuality and love. As Ortiz puts it, “‘Smoke’ is about exploring erotic desires and also our spiritual desires about connection with people. In a way, that’s what Lori does: You can be lusty and spiritual at the same time.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.