Set in Vancouver, Canada’s condo and casino playground, Lady Sunrise is a story of social climbing, and the damaging effect of today’s hyper-consumerist society. Featuring six strong characters, Marjorie Chan introduces us to these women’s relationship to money and power, and how these can help them get ahead or hinder aspects of their lives.
Lady Sunrise is inspired by the modern classic, Sunrise, originally written by Chinese playwright Cao Yu in 1936, which centres on the degradation of society and moral standards as played out in Shanghai, after the economic collapse of the 1930s. Chan’s version centres on the Asian-Canadian experience in current times.
Penny (Lindsay Wu) is a beautiful yet unemployed model/hostess used to a fancy lifestyle thanks to her auntie Tawny (Ma-Anne Dionisio), who has made a lot of money in condo developments.
Tawny’s banker Wong (Rosie Simon) is a hard-working, powerful executive who has climbed the corporate ladder, no holds barred.
Opposite these three women are a blackjack dealer (Zoé Doyle) who works at a casino frequented by the rich and infamous, Charmaine (Louisa Zhu) who runs a massage parlour that employs young, newly immigrated Asian women like Sherry (Belinda Corpuz).
All the women’s stories are presented as a sort of continuous monologue by each of the characters. Parts of their stories are interconnected; most obviously that of Penny and Tawny. Their relationship is like that of a mother-daughter dynamic, but a bit more complicated as their main link is money and social connections. Lindsay Wu’s portrayal of Penny is raw and honest. She has great command of the stage.
Ma-Anne Dionisio also excels as auntie Tawny, an older woman looking for a second chance at happiness. The rest of the cast also does fairly well given each of their parts is dialogue heavy. I will point out there were times where the dialogue kept me from connecting with some of the characters.
Camellia Koo‘s set design is interesting. I am not sure it works all that well for me; however, I do see how it evokes the social climbing these women have been doing in order to get ahead in life.
Lady Sunrise is directed by Nina Lee-Aquino, who has been championing Asian-Canadian stories in theatre for many years. She is also the Artistic Director of Factory Theatre. As such, it is only fitting that she is at the helm of this production.
Seeing stories of strong and complex Asian-Canadian women on stage (or any other ethnic group, for that matter) is way overdue. What really stands out for me about Lady Sunrise is seeing all these women working together in telling these stories. They are finally able to control the narrative and bring these stories to life.
Lady Sunrise continues at Factory Theatre until March 8, 2020. For full list of showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit factorytheatre.ca.