Review: Powerful Women Rise and Fall in LADY SUNRISE

CASEY AND DIANA to Begin Performances Next Week at the Stratford Festival

Factory Theatre's LADY SUNRISE, directed by Nina Lee Aquino, tells the story of a group of vastly different diasporic Asian-Canadian women living in Vancouver. Despite their different places in life they all come to be connected through a single business deal, brought to life through ex-pageant girl and model Penny's (Lindsay Wu) connection to a shady condo developer, bringing her non-related auntie Tawny (Ma-Anne Dionisio) along as her financier.

As the deal struggles to stand and Penny's materialistic habits start to pile up on her, women from both upper and lower social classes start to enter the narrative. Playwright Marjorie Chan's script outlines a chance interaction between a bank executive and a masseuse, a monologue from the dealer at the casino Penny haunts, and a confrontation between a poor girl on the street and Penny as she walks home from the club one night.

Aquino's staging of these scenes and conversations takes place on several horizontal beams that run the length of the stage (set design by Camellia Koo), each growing steeper in incline and shorter in length as they reach the highest point possible in the theatre's space. These beams are a not-so-subtle way of reminding the audience where characters stand - literally and metaphorically - and depict who in each scene has the higher ground via morality or social standing. Factory Theatre's production also benefits from having an almost entirely female creative team, whose influences undoubtedly root the dramatics of Chan's work in realism.

There are a lot of smart decisions made in the staging, and equally important moves made by actors in presenting these varied characters as realistic people. Each are shown to struggle with defining themselves and their place in the world; perhaps none more than Penny, who Wu plays with a razor-sharp precision. She is both the life of the party, a true girly girl, and at the same time a heartbreaking, messy human being. Dionisio's composed Tawny is a woman motivated by emotion, however Dionisio's controlled, precise delivery is disarming at every twist in the narrative.

The remainder of the ensemble, made up of Belinda Corpuz, Zoé Doyle, Rosie Simon, and Louisa Zhu, deliver equally strong performances. An especially memorable performance comes from Corpuz as the girl who confronts Penny on the street, Sherry (Belinda Corpuz). Corpuz has the least amount of stage time, but delivers a few raw, gripping moments that are difficult to watch but impossible to look away from. Despite strong character performances, there are moments where the ensemble enter dressed in trench coats and neon blunt bob wigs to do interpretive movement to monologues. These didn't fit as well with the narrative, and the clacking of heels and shuffling as they moved distracted from the lines being delivered.

LADY SUNRISE is one of those rare works that takes the time to build its female characters up through their fears, desires, and flaws, and does so with no male gaze. Men are not erased from this world, though; the effects of the patriarchal society these women live in are seen, heard, and felt by and through the women of the story. However, one huge strength LADY SUNRISE boasts is that these women are not compelled to help one another because of their gender - each have their own goals, and their refusal to be swayed or altered is brutally honest to the paths many women take to achieve success in a male-dominated world.

Factory Theatre's LADY SUNRISE runs through March 8 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Photo credit: Joseph Michael Photography


Bad Hats/Soulpepper's ALICE IN WONDERLAND Leads Dora Award Nominations

At a press conference held at Meridian Hall, the Toronto Alliance for the  Performing Arts (TAPA) announced 228 nominations for the 43rd Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards, which recognize excellence in professional theatre, dance and opera in Toronto for the 2022-2023 season. Also announced at the press conference was the recipient of the Province of Ontario’s Pauline McGibbon Award. 

Art of Time Ensemble Reveals 25th Anniversary Season & Ensuing Closure

This year Art of Time Ensemble, led by its founding Artistic Director Andrew Burashko, will celebrate its 25th anniversary and announced its final concert season. Mr. Burashko has announced an exciting slate of live concerts and special projects that span the next 18 months, after which he plans to wind down the critically acclaimed arts organization in 2025.

Opera Atelier Reveals 2023/24 Season Lineup

Opera Atelier's founding Co-artistic Directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg announced the company's celebratory 2023/24 season, featuring the 1774 French version of Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice - written expressly for Marie Antoinette - on stage October 26 to November 1, 2023, followed by the groundbreaking mixed program, featuring music by Debussy, Hahn, Handel, Lully, Purcell and Rameau in All Is Love, on stage April 11 to 14, 2024.

Set and Costume Designer Samantha McCue Honoured With 2023 Pauline McGibbon Award

Theatre designer Samantha McCue is the recipient of the 2023 Pauline McGibbon Award. This award is presented to an Ontario-resident professional artist in the early stages of their career who has contributed to the well-being of Ontario's theatre community, displays unique talent and has the potential for excellence. 


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