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The Pattern at Pendarvis

From 6 critic and 41 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow, Resonant, Absorbing

About the show

A fictionalized look at the quiet life of Edgar Hellum, a closeted man in his nineties who did pioneering work in historic preservation in a small, mid-western town. More…

'The Pattern at Pendarvis' tells the story of a man who just happened to be gay in an era long before Stonewall and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." It deals with contemporary gay identity issues through the eyes of a man who spent his life in the closet.

Theater That Matters

"We can truly understand and appreciate what these to men did for the town and celebrate their love story...What makes this an astounding production is the connection between Lawrence Merritt, Edgar and Gregory Jensen, Rich. The men are separated by 60 years and throughout the play they develop a deep understanding and respect for one another...The two have breath-taking chemistry...This is a definite must see and another perfect example of theater that matters!" Full Review


"Serene, absorbing, and concise...Gray infuses his straightforward 70-minute interview treatment with tension, suspense, and drama...He provides skillful exposition and while present at the discussion stuffily keeps trying to steer it away from personal disclosures. The dialogue is smooth, efficient, and dotted with references to figures of that time...Megel’s staging is suitably simple yet theatrical...A moving work that documents a distant chapter of gay history." Full Review

Gay City News

“An absorbing new play about queer culture keepers...The premise couldn’t be simpler...A slow burn of a play. The first half is relatively static and expository...Gray’s naturalistic dialogue and incremental storytelling holds our interest. It’s not until the final minutes that the play realizes it’s full dramatic potential...The Merritt, who embodies the soft-spoken Edgar with a delicate mix of caution, intrigue, humility, fervor, and, ultimately, pride.” Full Review

Manhattan With a Twist

A play that goes into great detail about its description of a setting while taking place entirely within a man’s living room shouldn’t work so well, but it does...Written with great affection and care, ‘The Pattern at Pendarvis’ is a play whose effect sneaks up on you slowly. At first, it seems like a pleasant enough way to spend eighty minutes, but it gradually becomes something special, and concludes with a beautifully understated ending that respects the nuance that came before.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"'The Pattern at Pendarvis' suffers from a certain awkwardness of construction, and, in its later passages, it doesn't entirely avoid the trap of preachiness, but Edgar is a fascinating character brought to life in all his evasive, cranky, poignant glory by Lawrence Merritt...To his credit, the director, Joseph Megel, lets the drama unfold in its own way, trusting it to deliver its considerable emotional impact." Full Review


“A sweet, sincere, but very small exploration of Midwestern mid-20th century life...What’s onstage...amounts to a snapshot—an intriguing snapshot, but one with a frustratingly blurry focus...To watch Merritt navigate Edgar’s rather complicated, detailed monologues is impressive and even inspiring...A touching, fully felt performance...’The Pattern at Pendarvis’ lasts a little over an hour, and it leaves you a little hungry.” Full Review

Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Must see

See it if You like to learn about a gay man’s struggle wt the society back in the day, how they tried to fit in &their story told through an interview

Don't see it if You like bigger production/cast, not interested in gay community, their dilemma just to fit in the community.The risk that they have taken

Also The play starts out slow but as it goes the drama unfolds, the sufferi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Thought-provoking, Must see

See it if you want to see a gifted storyteller. Lawrence Merritt is EVERYTHING! Couldn't take my eyes away! Overall, great acting and touching show

Don't see it if you're not comfortable being drawn into a narrative. This is classic, simple draw-you-in storytelling done by a master.

Touching, Great acting, Enlightening, Intelligent, Must see

See it if you would like to meet a man whose devotion to a cause (preservation) and to another man had a lasting impact.

Don't see it if you dislike quiet, thoughtful plays that are built on reminicence and reveal character slowly.

Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You're interested in seeing how much the LGBT community has moved forward in the last 100 years

Don't see it if You don't like slow plays or small productions

Great acting, Profound

See it if Poignant tale of an older gay man being interviewed for a book. Will he share how he & his lover built Pendaris? Touching & heartwarming.

Don't see it if You're looking for a musical. Show runs 70 minutes. All 3 cast members are excellent.

Elderly gay hero tells of accomplished life in the closet

See it if A gem. Famous gay historic preservationist tells of restoring miners' homes in Wis. All of it done with male partner in the 1930s closet.

Don't see it if Very handsome author/interviewer wants to know about being gay in the 30s and 40s. But museum honcho wants to keep the gay angle covered up

Great acting, Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You enjoy biographical interviews with witty conversations and lively stories when talking about serious topics

Don't see it if You just want to be entertained or crave for intensity

An outstanding performance make this a must-see ...

See it if you don't want to risk missing an outstanding turn by actor Lawrence Merritt. His nuanced performance ultimately touched me deeply.

Don't see it if plays with gay themes are not on your agenda.

Also The play is poignant, informative and well-written. Even though its br... Read more Read less

Great acting, Resonant, Thought-provoking, Historical, Sweet

See it if you like queer history, you like personal narratives, you like plays based on true stories

Don't see it if you're homophobic, you don't like personal narratives

Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You're looking for a show with LGBTQ+ themes. You enjoy plays that are based on interviews.

Don't see it if You are looking for a big production.

Great staging, Great acting, Slow, Absorbing

See it if A quiet, thoughtful play about antiques, restoration, and being gay in a small town spanning the 20th century. Slower pace. Fantastic actors

Don't see it if You seek a high energy show with set and costume changes, or a musical, or the topic of being gay in America is not of interest

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow, Resonant, Relevant

See it if Young scholar learns of life 'before Stonewall" from closeted 'activist' Fine ensemble led by poignant Merritt but cultural steward theme ??

Don't see it if Slow going & a travelogue (20 min) until homophobic curator's outburst Finding true tempo it becomes moving & a plea for generational equity

Touching, Poignant, Lovely acting, Quiet and a bit slow, Thought-provoking

See it if Like a subtly staged, imagined intrvw re closeted life of gays in midwest and their unsung societal contributions. Quiet drama, nicely told

Don't see it if Not interested in subject matter, think you'd be bored w 3 people in chairs & little to no action, find historical and cultural refs dull.

Also The acting is very good, especially Lawrence Merritt playing the late ... Read more Read less

Understated, Great acting, Poignant, Resonant

See it if You want to see a touching, simple piece about the life of a closeted (or glass-closeted) gay man.

Don't see it if You are expecting something that feels like a real play. As lovely as it often is, it’s basically just a fictitious interview.

Also This is a nice, poignant work. It’s easy to envision the premise makin... Read more Read less

Poignant, Slow, Thoughtful, "gay rights" theme, Uneven

See it if you are moved by stories about an older gay man at odds with his repressive era; you like plays set in the past

Don't see it if you don't like static action (3 men seated throughout), don't care about the struggles of closeted gay men -- or if you prefer musicals

Also Though I enjoyed this play & I was moved by the theme, it would have h... Read more Read less

Great acting, Quirky, Slow

See it if You enjoy story time as an adult, you don't mind possibly crying at the end.

Don't see it if You prefer a fast paced comedy or action packed production

Slow, Resonant, Relevant

See it if the touching story of a closeted gay man from an earlier era interests you. You want to see a stunning performance by an elderly actor.

Don't see it if you are looking for a typical play rather than an interview. If gay themes don’t interest you.

Also I found this play slow. The main draw is Lawrence Merritt’s performanc... Read more Read less

Great acting, Slow, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if to see how two gay men lived prior to Stonewall, like interview type shows, see history woven to a show.

Don't see it if You don't like interview type show, are not patient (slow and you don't get the full gist of it until about 20 min of show) are homophobic.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Ambitious

See it if An absorbing look at bygone closeted days of a gay elder.

Don't see it if Not overly dramatic this biplay will not interest those tired of gay stories

Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you like shows that consist of dialog, or those that address homosexuality and social mores of earlier times.

Don't see it if you expect a show to deliver a full or profound experience with well-crafted dialog, elaborate sets and scene changes.

Also There is a kernel of genuinely interesting material here, but it feels... Read more Read less

Well-acted, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if .. you're interested in an esoteric corner of LGBT history. Intimate storytelling. I would have liked more exposition.

Don't see it if're not interested in LGBT history

Great acting, Intelligent, Slow, Thought-provoking, Modest

See it if you're interested in how society has shifted around LGBT visibility and homophobia. Lawrence Merritt was terrific as the 90something man

Don't see it if you need a perfect play. It's well meaning and interesting but a little inside its own head. Too much exposition in first half

Thought-provoking, Riveting, Resonant, Profound, Great acting

See it if a beautifully written tale of an unsung hero of gay America, in a moving production, excellently acted, is your cup of tea.

Don't see it if you like loud, in your face, mind-numbing drivel.

During previews
Exquisite, Great writing, Must see, Absorbing

See it if You want to spend a fascinating evening enjoying great acting, great writing and hearing about a part of gay history most of us don't know.

Don't see it if You are not interested in gay history

Also I absolutely loved this show and was drawn in every second. The princi... Read more Read less

During previews
Profound, Must see, Great writing, Absorbing, Intelligent

See it if You want to see a great Play. You like sophisticated, intelligent theater.

Don't see it if You are bored by serious theater.

Cast & Creatives (10)