Nigredo Hotel by Nic Gotham and Ann-Marie MacDonald, directed by Banuta Rubess, with Alexander Dobson and Patricia O'Callaghan.
Presented by Tapestry New Opera Works at the Fermenting Cellar, Distillery District (55 Mill). Runs to May 15, Thursday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 6 and 9 pm, Sunday 2 pm. $35-$50, stu/srs discounts. 416-537-6066. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Get to the distillery district soon. Nic Gotham and Ann-Marie MacDonald's 1992 operatic thriller, Nigredo Hotel , has been remounted, but you can only check in until Sunday.
The piece recounts one unsettling night in the life of neurosurgeon Raymond ( Alexander Dobson ), who leaves his car and enters a strange and surreal motel room overseen by a slatternly landlady named Sophie ( Patricia O'Callaghan ).
The program notes fill us in on the psychological significance of the title. Apparently, "nigredo" means "dark night of the soul" and has something to do with the Jungian theory of traumatic experiences leading to enlightenment. Um, right.
All of this sounds pretty precious on the page. What really matters is what we see and feel watching the stage, right?
The artists - helmed by director Banuta Rubess - produce highly evocative music theatre.
MacDonald's text, full of riddles and half-remembered stories, is cheeky and coy. How many librettos do you know that include raunchy curses, Latin phrases and references to Salome?
Gotham's jazz-influenced score creates a creepy atmosphere, enhanced by squeaking and shrill woodwinds.
And the vivid production gets an atmospheric boost from Jerrard Smith 's skewed-perspective set that's full of surprises and Paul Mathiesen 's mood-shifting lighting design.
As with a David Lynch movie, you're not quite sure what you're watching. Is Sophie part of Raymond, or vice versa?
The work's final 10 minutes aren't as taut as the rest, and Dobson is merely serviceable as the surgeon. But O'Callaghan mesmerizes. She slinks through the role with complete confidence, using her voice and body to morph from hysterical motel siren to the conclusion's regally dressed, cast-out goddess.