17 Border Crossings (NY Theatre Workshop)
Closed 1h 30m
17 Border Crossings (NY Theatre Workshop)
76

17 Border Crossings (NY Theatre Workshop) NYC Reviews and Tickets

76%
(91 Reviews)
Positive
85%
Mixed
13%
Negative
2%
Members say
Clever, Great staging, Relevant, Absorbing, Intelligent

About the Show

Based on Thaddeus Phillips’s actual adventures, "17 Border Crossings" is a harrowing, comical, visually surreal and engrossing look at the imaginary lines that divide up the world and the very real barriers they create.

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Member Reviews (91)

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28
Uninvolving, Dry, Slow

See it if You were a history major. You enjoy Ted Talks. You enjoy highbrow humor.

Don't see it if You have sensitivities to strobe lights, flashing lights, bright green neon lights or deafening airplane sounds. You want a thrilling story.

40
Pointless, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if you'd like to see some interesting staging and lighting towards the end of the play and don't care so much about the content

Don't see it if you want to see a play that has a point or a message to it. this is just an American dude telling us all about his travels Read more

Critic Reviews (21)

The New York Times
April 15th, 2019

"Mr. Phillips is an ingratiating writer and performer...Throughout, the staging by Tatiana Mallarino (Mr. Phillips’s wife) moves with a fluidity at odds with the travel mishaps, which are related with dry humor...Then again, the stamps in the Passenger’s passport have a more lasting presence than his anecdotes, because the genial, light-footed show retreats every time things get sticky or uncomfortable."
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Time Out New York
April 15th, 2019

"On a mostly empty stage, using his talents for languages and broad caricature, the playwright-performer touches on more than two dozen cultures from five continents...It's an impressive feat of creativity and endurance, if not a consistently engaging one...The show too rarely seems urgent. Unlike some of the born-on-the-wrong-side folks he meets along the way, it's clear that the Passenger, with his U.S. passport, will always make it through. Where's the drama in that?"
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New York Magazine / Vulture
April 15th, 2019

"Though Phillips is buoyant and personable and his stagecraft often charming, the show ultimately feels long on design and short on dramaturgy. It never shapes the list of its content into a substantial dramatic arc, and so ends up feeling slighter than it should — pleasant but not potent...The pleasures of Phillips’s show are largely visual, the aesthetic tricks and treats he creates in this fringe-like setting...It tells, but it doesn’t build or reveal."
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Theatermania
April 16th, 2019

“It's a bad sign for a show when the lighting design upstages the star...Whether this performance adds up to anything more than a virtuosic 90-minute acting display is questionable...The global reach is admirable, but scope is not the same as depth...Starts to take on the feel of a glorified photo album — and as with any photo album, unless one is already invested in its creator as a personality, one is likely to come away from this show shrugging one's shoulders in indifference."
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Lighting & Sound America
April 16th, 2019

“Despite some vivid servings of color and a commendable skepticism, this piece wanders the world without getting much of anywhere...Phillips is a physically agile performer but his vocal work underwhelms; he seems incapable of making the most of his own writing...Inside this subject matter is a potent statement...but neither Phillips nor his director has been able to capitalize on it: This fiery material has been sabotaged by an overthought approach."
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New York Stage Review
April 15th, 2019

"Nothing if not utterly unique, a piece that from start to finish radiates a gritty charm....Phillips’ important effect is providing a broader picture of how borders are policed not just in this country but around the globe. It’s a helpful lesson at a time when so much is argued about controlling borders and yet so much remains perplexing."
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TheaterScene.net
April 24th, 2019

"'17 Border Crossings' is one of the most technically adroit Off-Broadway shows to be seen thanks to the split second cooperation between Phillips' spare scenery design, David Todaro's brilliantly inventive lighting and Robert Kaplowitz' sound design and occasional music. How Phillips uses the table alone is astonishing, literally creating multiple angles of observation, including an astonishing simulation of peering at the Passenger from up above."
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Theatre is Easy
April 22nd, 2019

"Phillips takes the audience across the globe through a series of eye-opening, funny, and riveting encounters...A gifted mimic who speaks multiple languages, Phillips skillfully transports you to a variety of historical moments, reminding us that there is always a border issue happening somewhere around the world. Sure, '17 Border Crossings' will no doubt inspire wanderlust. But hopefully it will also encourage compassion for those whose travels are fraught and far from over."
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Front Row Center
April 17th, 2019

“Not a lighthearted romp. It is, as the title suggests, a recital of, well, 17 border crossings...Phillips is a skilled storyteller. Combined with the superb lighting...these crossings crackle with life. This does not stop the evening from tumbling into a blur of borders, however, because there is no connective tissue. There is no chronological order, no itinerary, and no reason given for why Phillips has been bouncing around the world for the past 18 or so years.”
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Front Mezz Junkies
May 16th, 2019

"This captivatingly creative look into the walls and lines that separate cultures and countries is a much needed lesson in tolerance and loving acceptance. A lesson that should be required by all at this time of heightened fear mongering...Makes you want to pack your bags and fly far and wide across the globe, experiencing all the cultural uniqueness and shared personal experiences that makes travel, and this play, such a rare joy and an airborne enlightenment."
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Exeunt Magazine
April 17th, 2019

“Tour de force solo play...Phillips’ charismatic, engaging, and switches into any accent and language with relative ease...Overall, ‘17 Border Crossings’ is great at putting the viewer in the shoes of The Passenger...The show isn’t confusing and or hard to follow. It’s engaging where such an information dump could have felt boring...But in the last 10 minutes...the show takes a wistful turn during the Mexican border crossing...It would have been better to end the show with reality.”
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Theatre's Leiter Side
April 21st, 2019

"There aren't as many laughs as one could wish but Phillips is an ingratiating raconteur. His bag of tricks involves using foreign accents and even bursting into the language of the officials…'17 Border Crossings,' overlong, never crosses the border into direct commentary about any specific migratory crisis…You can assume that it message is elusive but it's hard to see it as much more than an intermittently funny satire on the complexities of crossing from one domain to another."
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T
April 24th, 2019

"There might be a handful of cool stories, but most of it is just not that interesting to strangers...A few of the tales stand out...But most of the anecdotes don’t have much of a point, and the writing is not sharp enough to sustain the length; you might think that he would delve into the refugee crisis, but that doesn’t come up that much...It’s a pleasant show, but it’s more like a nice day trip than an epic journey."
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T
April 23rd, 2019

"This type of play structure results in a few interesting tales being lost amidst the acting exercise. Phillips is a very winning stage presence, comfortable with believable accents...The unlikely stars of this show are the lighting and sound designers...Moments that attempt to bring depth and meaning are far too infrequent. They are also skimmed over so fast that nothing meaningful has time to stick.”
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The Wrap
April 15th, 2019

"Tatiana Mallarino’s clever staging and Phillips’ low-fi set design, which converts a horizontal light bar into everything from a train to a plane to various neon-lit interrogation rooms, lend a greater degree of theatricality to the proceedings. The souped-up production can only do so much, though: Despite the 90-minute running time, you may find yourself counting down just how many more crossings there are still to go before the final curtain."
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I
April 16th, 2019

"Taken as a whole, the play’s text is a quirky and informative – if slightly padded and self-important – examination of what man-made borders represent...Although he’s less compelling as a monologuist, there’s no getting around the fact that Mr. Phillips is a master at painting arresting stage pictures...Both he and director Tatiana Mallarino are able to elegantly, succinctly, and strikingly convey time, place, and space. At its best, '17 Border Crossings' is seductive theater."
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The New York Times
October 2nd, 2015
For a previous production

“A genial and mildly provocative solo show about people and prepositions...If the staging compels, as do several of the tales, the text itself doesn’t. The storytelling is efficient, but prosaic...But the current migrant crisis deepens the material, making it seem more urgent than it might otherwise...You can’t watch ‘17 Border Crossings’ and not be reminded of the risks that people take for refuge, the natural and artificial boundaries that impede them.”
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The Guardian (UK)
August 19th, 2015
For a previous production

“This is an elegant piece of storytelling spanning more than 20 years and many borders all over the world...The increasingly catastrophic global refugee crisis is under-explored. Its world’s eye view is very much that of a passport-carrying American with safe passage. It makes the show itself seem a little too safe, and Phillips like a raconteur rather than a man with something urgent to say.”
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The Stage (UK)
August 24th, 2015
For a previous production

“Phillips is a fluid, shifting storyteller, something of a conjuror. As a piece of performance it is technically brilliant, dizzyingly so. Each episode is beautifully rendered, an act of transportation; he is effortlessly multilingual...The staging is incredibly effective...Beneath the humour of these vignettes, the piece is laced with poignancy in the things it has to say about immigration and freedom of movement, the walls we erect, the barriers between people.”
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B
April 21st, 2017
For a previous production

"Engaging but seldom compelling...Phillips focuses on the in-the-moment experience of international travel...A skilled and likable performer, Phillips taps into the inherent theatricality of travel...Many of the short vignettes...barely register...A series of disconnected snapshots that don’t cohere into a larger picture. The show would be stronger and sharper if Phillips trained his focus on fewer episodes and more fully developed his stories.”
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9
April 21st, 2017
For a previous production

“Don’t expect this quirky, inventive account of one man getting his passport pounded to be an urgent, up-to-the-minute consideration of recent refugee crises...’17 Borders Crossing’ predates its own perceived timeliness...There is value, however, in the original work’s depiction of the world’s gradual, reluctant adjustment to its increasingly permeable borders, as seen by one artistic adventurer...Translating his meanderings into one sensorially ingenious piece of theater.”
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