The Warehouse Theatre kicked off its 50th season on Sept. 8 with an electrifying production of “Twelfth Night.” The show, directed by Jayce T. Tromsness, added a modern flair to the classic Shakespearean comedy.
Upon entering the theatre, the detailed set design immediately entranced me. Flowers adorned the walls, small red curtains hung from the stairs, and clam shells covered the footlights. I was not familiar with this play, but the set, designed by Thor Bailey, excited me for the story I was about to witness.
The show opened with a single ghost light illuminating the stage as the cast sang “Mad World” by Tears for Fears—which you may better know by the lyric “all around me are familiar faces.” When their rendition of the song was finished, the ghost light turned off, and the audience was thrust into the world of the play.
This week, the role of Feste/Captain/Priest was played by Maddie Tisdel, an understudy who had to step in quickly when Anne Kelly Tromsness fell ill with COVID-19. Tisdel held a binder containing her script throughout the play, but her sharp performance often made me forget it was a script and not just another prop. Performing a two-hour Shakespearean play as a central character who takes on different roles is no easy feat; however, Tisdel handled the task with impressive ease.
The cast of this production was very strong. I was especially impressed by Guillermo Jemmott Jr., who played both Duke Orsino and Sir Andrew. These characters were vastly different from one another, with Duke Orsino being serious and stern, while Sir Andrew was a playful fool. Jemmott brought distinct mannerisms to both of these characters that completely separated them from each other and himself. It was not until late in the first act that I realized one actor was playing both roles, and even then I had to check the program to confirm.
Each actor brought unique mannerisms into their character, which made them more engaging to watch. Malvolio, played by Christina Rose Yasi, walked stiffly, with her feet turned outward and her hands rigid, even when she grew frantic. Tinasha LaRaye made her debut at Warehouse with a humorously expressive Olivia, defiantly sticking her tongue out mid-argument and frequently throwing her hands up in exasperation. Brock Koonce portrayed a delightfully mischievous Sir Toby, a drunkard who played pranks constantly.
The modern twist to the play was present not only in song choice but also in the characters’ handshakes and props, such as a mini hand clapper, a modern bicycle, and vibrant sunglasses. Along with the modern production, the play was also engaging because of the actors’ interactions with the audience, such as when Yasi ran through the audience showcasing the letter she was reading or when she handed an audience member her gloves to momentarily hold.
Alongside the set design, the lighting and costumes both played a large role in the play’s immersiveness. The lighting, designed by Alicia Varcoe, set the perfect tone for the show with deep, vibrant colors. The actors also, at times, manipulated a light on the floor near the audience, creating spotlights for other actors or framing the scene, which made for an immersive experience as the actors set the scene. Meanwhile, the costumes, designed by Furman Theatre Professor Margaret Caterisano with assistance from David Jones ‘25, helped to elevate the story by portraying the characters’ social status—high-class characters like Olivia and Sir Andrew had lace and velvet, while lower-class characters like Antonio wore simpler outfits.
The cast and crew of “Twelfth Night” delivered an incredible show that provided a perfect start to The Warehouse Theatre’s 50th season. Don’t miss a chance to watch the show, which will run through Sept. 24. Tickets can be purchased here.