The Pattern at Pendarvis

By Andrew Andrews

Edgar (Lawrence Merritt), Rich (Gregory Jensen) and Norm (David Murray Jaffe) discuss life for two gay preservationists in Mineral Point, Wisconsin during the Great Depression in The Pattern at Pendarvis. Original photo by Dennis Cahlo.

A few days ago we reviewed Interstate at Theatre Row, in which a trans poet and a lesbian musician left the safe haven of “the islands” (Manhattan and Long) to tour the uncertainty of “mainland America” about a decade ago.

Tonight, we headed downtown to Here for The Pattern at Pendarvis, which takes us again to an LGBTQ experience in middle America—Wisconsin, to be exact—only this trip took us even further back in time—to the 1930’s—when being different was considered so intolerable that it wasn’t even acknowledged.

Pattern, you see, is playwright Dean Gray’s best guess about what life was like for Edgar Hellum (Lawrence Merritt) and Robert Neal, a gay couple who became famous around the world for restoring houses in Mineral Point, an old town where Cornish miners hand-built stone dwellings in the style they were familiar with back home.

Shunned by local residents who appreciated their restoration efforts but not their living arrangement, Edgar and Bob welcomed guests from far away but not from down the road.

In Pattern, author Richard Farnsworth (Gregory Jensen) interviews Edgar late in his life (in 1997) for a book he’s developing about restoration and other positive contributions gay men have made to society.

Believe it or not, it’s a more exciting story than it sounds. That’s because the interview is being monitored by Edgar’s friend Norm (David Murray Jaffe), an elderly straight man with old-fashioned values who interjects every time Rich’s questions start to turn away from remodeling toward the relationship between Edgar and his long-departed partner.

Concerned, it seems, about the impact such a story might have on Edgar’s standing in the community and the preservation society that’s taken over the houses (to operate as a museum about the area’s mining history), Norm does everything he can to derail the story that Rich is trying to tell.

On a simple but handsome set (Daniel Ettinger) supplemented by projections of images from Edgar’s past (Tomas del Valle, Ben Elling, Hugo Fowler and Cassidy Pearsall), the trio dances around a subject that, in mainland America in the 90’s, was still very much taboo.

Under the direction of Joseph Megel, the cast had us believing that what we were seeing really did happen as recently as twenty years ago, when a researcher named Will Fellows—whose notes were used to construct this script—really did interview Hellum.

The Pattern at Pendarvis runs through August 1st at Here. Give it a shot, then come back to Opplaud™ and let us know what you think of this production.

Whether or not you agree that a play about an interview about restoring old houses can be more engaging than it sounds, your reviews help others decide whether they should attend, and your ratings help us help you find future events you’re sure to love!


Andrew Andrews attended The Pattern at Pendarvis at HERE in Manhattan on Saturday, July 14, 2018 @ 7:00pm to write this review.