The Victoria College Drama Society (VCDS) began 2018 with its production of lady in the red dress on Thursday, January 25 at The Cat’s Eye Student Pub & Lounge. The show examines the anti-Asian racism surrounding the Chinese head tax imposed by the Canadian government, as well as issues of sexism, violence, and death.
The play takes place in Toronto, and loosely follows the timeline of the Chinese head tax, alternating between present day and the early 1900s.
A talented young cast was on hand for this adaptation of David Yee’s play, portraying their characters in dramatic, yet realistic and comical ways. Max (James Hyett), a lawyer negotiating the head tax redress, encounters Sylvia (Kenzie Tsang), an enigmatic woman in a red dress looking for vengeance.
Sylvia drags him into the history of the Chinese-Canadian struggle, and her search for the elusive Tommy Jade (Nam Nguyen). Along the way, Max is shot, stabbed, suffers a heart attack, and discovers that his son Danny (Cy Macikunas) has been taken hostage. As the show progresses, Max experiences the discrimination against Chinese-Canadians and the effects of the head tax firsthand.
While the show is at first insensitive to these disparities, he comes to the realization that everyone has a collective responsibility to do the right thing and draw attention to the harsh history endured by past generations.
Gianni Sallese gives brilliant performances in the roles of Hatch and Coogan, and Alice Guo and Victoria Ngai’s non-speaking roles in the chorus also added to the dramatics.
Overall, lady in the red dress is an extraordinary play that portrays the diversity of a predominantly Chinese-Canadian story well with mostly Chinese and mixed actors. It reverberates the significance of Canada’s diversity today, especially in Toronto, and helps us to shift our perspectives on critical issues of injustice.
lady in the red dress runs at The Cat’s Eye until Saturday, January 27.