STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Three divorced women room together by necessity. They don’t have to become friends, but they do. Not before some struggles which bring a lot of laughs, though, luckily for audiences who see “The Divorcees Club” at the Penn’s Landing Playhouse. The play is an adaptation of a French comedy making its American debut in Philadelphia. The show will feature Philadelphia-specific ideas, places, and foods.
The story centers around Bethany, who’s divorced from a wealthy man; Bridget, a country girl (played by a male actor, Stephen Croce); and Marie, played by Kellie Cooper, of Center City.
“She the stereotypical Jersey girl that just loves life and loves everyone she comes in contact with,” Cooper said. “She’s not the sharpest tool in the box, but she knows what she’s doing. She’s not smart, but she has the street smarts that most Jersey girls do, and I can speak for myself because I’m from New Jersey.” (Cooper grew up near Sicklerville and spent time during the summer at the Jersey shore.)
Cooper said it’s really funny.
“I get to be a butt of a lot of the jokes,” she said. “I love comedy.”
Being an actor who enjoys comedy is a far cry from where she thought she’d end up. Cooper originally studied forensic pathology in college. But she missed the theater, which she had fallen in love with in high school. So she started performing again. She has a day job as a client service manager at a local animal hospital, which she also loves. She’s happy she gets to do both.
“I’ve had every shade of hair color you can imagine. I’ve done some straight plays, some dramas,” she said. “I have a drive to be an actor and I want to do this. The fact that I get to do two totally different things that I get fulfilled by — it’s not work anymore.”
Aileen Goldberg, of Upper Darby, doesn’t think it’s work either. She plays Bethany.
“She’s is a Main Line socialite. Aristocratic. Her family came over on the Mayflower,” she said. “She’s old money and knows it.”
Goldberg has played this type of character before, even a Queen at the New Jersey Renaissance Faire. In the show, the apartment the three inhabit is hers, but she didn’t really want roommates.
“She would be much happier in a nice, big, single-family home out on the Main Line by herself with a maid and a pool boy,” Goldberg said. “But she no longer has the income of a husband coming in.”
Goldberg is thankful she has income coming in because she’s an actor. She always knew she’d be a performer. Growing up, she spent time in and around her parents’ Storybook Musical Theater.
An actor’s life has uncertainty, but she has day jobs to count on in between gigs. Goldberg works as a store artist for Trader Joe’s. They’ve been so supportive of her need to take time for rehearsals, even letting her work in another store when she was in a show out of town, and other helpful ways, she thanked them in the Playbill. She also works for the Phillies singing Happy Birthday to people in the stands who are celebrating.
She’s happy to do all of that so she can pursue her passion: musical theater.
“I love being able to sing and act at the same time,” she said.
She loves comedy, too.
“There’s nothing better than a good laugh on stage,” she said. “Laughter feeds my soul.”
So does performing in front of a live audience. Working in film and TV is great, but there’s something about the connection in theater.
“Just being able to have that kind of communal moment is the best thing,” she said. “Their laughter feeds us. It feeds the show and makes the show so much better.”
Both actors agree this show will bring lots of laughs for the audience. It also is relatable to most people. In between the giggles, a common want comes through and, hopefully, the characters get what they want, or learn that they already have what they need.
“We all want a new man. We want that connection with somebody,” Cooper said. “But we don’t need to have a man. We have each other.”
IF YOU GO
What: “The Divorcees Club”
Where: Penn’s Landing Playhouse, Penn’s Landing, 211 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia.
When: Shows area at 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Thu.; 8 p.m. Fri.; 2 and 8 p.m. Sat.; 2 p.m. Sun. through March 22.
Info.: Call (855) 448-7469 or visit www.thedivorceesclub.com