You could easily make a day of theater in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy neighborhood over the next month because Quintessence Theatre Group is presenting two plays in rotating repertory. Same actors, same venue — but completely different shows.

Go to a matinee one day, and the play will be Ben Jonson’sThe Alchemist.” Jonson’s comedy centers on three employees, who, left to their own devices when their boss is away, swindle ridiculous characters out of their cash. Among their offerings? Pseudoscientific services that summon fairies or turn metal into gold. Jonson wrote the play in 1610 to welcome London audiences back to the theater after the Great Plague.

Leave the theater, get some dinner in Mount Airy and come back for the evening show of William Shakespeare’sThe Winter’s Tale.” “It’s full of romance and comedy, and is all about reconciliation and repentance and universal healing,” said Alexander Burns, Quintessence’s producing artistic director. “I don’t know many people who don’t end up crying at the end of the play. It’s very cathartic.”

How do the actors do it? And why?

Burns said the repertory approach “showcases the ability of an actor to transform — which is at the heart of the theater and theatrical imagination. It allows theater to be a kind of theatrical gymnasium,” which exercises the audience’s mental muscles when, in one play, it becomes accustomed to a particular actor as a king and perhaps within a few hours or the next day must adjust to seeing that same actor as a servant.

“The psyche of the actor is also protected,” Burns said, explaining that playing a tragic role nonstop for an entire run, for example, comes at a cost for the actor. Because the two repertory roles have different demands, they act as a tonic for the actor, allowing the actor to dig deeper in each role, knowing emotional relief is at hand.

On the marketing front, there are pluses, Burns said. Audiences become fans of the actors and want to see what else they can do — perhaps buying two tickets instead of one. “It does create a kind of energy.”

And on a historical note, both plays debuted in the same theatrical season in 1610-1611 just as London was emerging from the plague. It was a good draw, since both playwrights were well-known to their audiences. “Ben JonsonJohnson was one of the great writers of the era and he’s gotten short shrift over these 200 years,” Burns said. It’s a key element of Quintessence’s mission, Burns said, “to pull out these other voices that in their own time were essential and bring them back to the conversation.”

Through April 17 for “The Winter’s Tale” and March 18-April 16 for “The Alchemist,” Quintessence Theatre Group, Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, 215-987-4450 or, Masks and vaccination proof required.

Stages Festival in New Jersey

Throughout the spring, 40 member theaters of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance will offer 80 events, either deeply discounted or at no cost. The Stages Festival includes performances, workshops, and readings.

“The Stages Festival has always been designed to enable all New Jersey residents, regardless of economic background or geographic location, to experience the joy and wonder of theatre. This year, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the festival, we are proud to showcase the incredible diversity and excellence of New Jersey’s professional theatre community,” John McEwen, executive director of the alliance, said in a statement.

Alliance members include the McCarter Theatre Company in Princeton, Passage Theater Company in Trenton, South Camden Theatre Company, Atlantic City Theatre Company, Cape May Stage, East Lynne Theatre Company in West Cape May, Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, and New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse, across the Delaware River from Lambertville.

Through the end of May. Check with individual venues for COVID-19 protocols. Most events are free but require registration. For a full listing of events, program details, and registration information visit

‘A Man for All Seasons’

Politics are politics and morality is morality and their intersection is the crux of Lantern Theater Company’s production of “A Man for All Seasons,” a Philadelphia premiere.

Back in the 1500s, it was Sir Thomas More who had to maneuver through the treacherous shoals of politics, while also navigating through the equally treacherous oceans of religion and romance. That’s because King Henry VIII, in ditching his first wife, also ditched the Roman Catholic Church. With the Catholics against divorce, and King Henry ready to start his own church so he could marry his new love, Anne Boleyn, More had to keep his head on straight — or risk losing it.

Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons is a play for all centuries. In 2000, Pope John Paul II declared More the patron saint of politicians. Directed by Peter DeLaurier. Philly favorite Frank X plays More.

Through April 10, Lantern Theater Company at the Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, 215-829-0395 or, Masks and vaccination proof required.

‘Life is a Dream’

Dance, music, and movement drive a world premiere of this adaptation of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s “Life is a Dream” at EgoPo Classic Theater. The play, considered to be the Spanish equivalent of “Hamlet,” is all about the abuse of power. Adapted by Felipe Vergara and Brenna Geffers, who also directs, Life is a Dream draws parallels between the recent sociopolitical unrest in the United States and the protests in Colombia, where Vergara lives and works. Hassan Syed choreographs.

Through March 27, EgoPo Classic Theater at Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, 267-273-1414 or, Masks and vaccination proof required.

Dominique Morisseau’s ‘Blood at the Root’

Amina Robinson directs Dominique Morisseau’s “Blood at the Root” at Temple University. Morisseau’s plays — particularly “Skeleton Crew” and “Mud Row” — have recently been on the region’s stages. Blood at the Root, like her other work, promises a searing examination of important issues of justice and equity.

In this case, the play is based on the true events surrounding the story of the Jena Six, six Black high school students from Louisiana who are accused of attempted murder when violence erupts after an incident ignites racial tensions at the school. Are all the school’s students treated the same? Blood at the Root probes white supremacy in the justice system and the impact that has had on Black families.

March 18-27, Randall Theater, Temple University, 2020 N. 13th St., Philadelphia, 215-204-1122 or

‘Three Tall Women’

At 92, a wealthy, proud, and autocratic woman, with senility on the edges, reflects on her life — both its pleasures and her regrets in Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women,” presented by the Players Club of Swarthmore. Albee simply named his elderly character A; her caretaker is B, 52, and her lawyer is C, 26. As the play continues, the three merge, their relationships shifting. Three Tall Women won Albee a Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Directed by Bohdan Senkow.

March 18-April 2, Players Club of Swarthmore, 614 Fairview Rd., Swarthmore. 610-328-4271 or, Masks and proof of vaccination or recent negative test required.