HR Farce: A Zoom of one’s own

Patty from HR is pissed. After being fired from her dream job as the human resources director at The New Yorker magazine, she’s been reduced to conducting Zoom training sessions for the uninformed. Well, she will be if she can get past her inaugural session/audition. That’s the premise of Patty from HR: A Zoom with a View. It’s the season opener at Sebastopol’s Main Stage West, and it runs through Sept. 11.

Patty, described as the world’s first Human Resources drag queen, is the creation of San Francisco-based performer Michael Phillis. He can be regularly seen at the Oasis, San Francisco’s premiere queer and drag cabaret space, where’s he’s made quite a name for himself via his drag adaptations of iconic sitcoms like Friends and The Golden Girls.  

He was one of the last performers seen at Main Stage West, with Patty’s participation in a fundraising event for the theater held just before the March 2020 pandemic-induced closures. She was such a smash that Producing Artistic Director Keith Baker brought her back for the company’s first post-peak-pandemic production.

Preferring to dip their toe in the live-performance pool with a production requiring a small cast and crew, the 70-minute tour-de-farce of a typical corporate training session is a very satisfying way to reintroduce oneself to the pleasure of live theater.

Once patrons provide proof of Covid vaccinations at the box office, they’ll be escorted to their seats in the quaint theater, where they will find it is possible to laugh from behind their masks.

Patty enters from the rear of the house and, with some difficulty, takes the stage to introduce her audience to the workings of this new-fangled thing she’s sure we’ve never heard of—Zoom! She then proceeds to spend the next 65 minutes talking about everything but, then closes with a diatribe that encapsulates how a lot of us feel about this new technology.

While she never explicitly says it, I take those last moments as a criticism of the proliferation of streaming theater and how it can never, EVER replace the shared-experience of live performance. Bravo, Patty.

Interspersed between the rare moments of actual training are hilarious bits about Patty’s backstory, from her introduction of personnel policies at a neighborhood lemonade stand to her participation in Jeffrey Toobin’s infamous self-satisfying Zoom conference call.

To be succinct, Michael Phillis’ A Zoom with A View is no drag.

“Patty from HR: A Zoom with a View” runs Thursday to Sunday through Sept. 11 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thursday–Saturday at 8pm; 5pm matinees on Sunday. $20–$32. 707.823.0177. mainstagewest.com

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