New York | 1h 30m | Ends May 12

17 Border Crossings (NY Theatre Workshop)

From 15 critic and 48 member reviews
Members say: Clever, Relevant, Great staging, Absorbing, Great acting

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. More…

With a chair, table, and bar of lights, Phillips magically conjures barricaded Venezuelan bridges, a rusty Croatian ferry, perilous international flights, obscure Amazonian ports, the twin cities of El Paso and Juarez, deportations, strip searches, illegal crossings, arbitrary passports, and curious customs. 

New York Stage Review

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

“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.” Full Review

The New York Times

"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." Full Review

Front Row Center

“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.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"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." Full Review

The Wrap

"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." Full Review

Time Out New York

"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?" Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“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." Full Review


“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." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

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.” Full Review

90.9 WBUR

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.” Full Review

The New York Times

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.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

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.” Full Review

Boston Globe

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.” Full Review

Great writing, Great staging, Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if a stupendous performance by Thaddeus Phillips. the piece is brilliantly written and staged.

Don't see it if this is NOT a traditional play. this is a one man show that touches on refugees, immigration and bureaucracy.

Great staging, Relevant, Great acting, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You enjoy solo shows with an engaging actor who’s work is spot on.

Don't see it if Like more traditional shows with full Sets and plot lines

Slow, Relevant, Intelligent, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if You want to see a quirky 1 person show that is an adult version of Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego. Interesting. Funny. Intelligent.

Don't see it if You hate 1 person shows. This one is better than most but it does drag in places and I found myself counting each story till we reached 17.

Absorbing, Great staging, Funny

See it if If you're interested in what a performer can do with virtually no set, travel, global events of the last 30 years

Don't see it if You don't like solo shows or you don't have an interest in learning about other countries and cultures.

Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Absorbing

See it if you love one man shows, with great choices in lighting, acting, set, and script

Don't see it if you hate one man shows, want spectacle or surface level things of theatre

Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Delightful, Clever, Absorbing

See it if An absorbing solo show about the nature of borders, trans-national identities, colonialism and the spirit of being a traveler. Beautiful.

Don't see it if If you don't like solo work, this may not be for you

Relevant, Resonant, Absorbing, Clever, Ambitious

See it if you enjoy creative, original works of theater that incorporate and examine the human experience.

Don't see it if you only enjoy linear narrative storytelling.

Also this is strong, affecting storytelling from a unique perspective and w... Read more Read less

Ironic, Creative, Great staging, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if you have read those little paragraphs that are nearly hidden in the papers about odd travel incidents; like 5 minute, vignette story-telling

Don't see it if you expect a fully- developed story; expect direct commentary on war, immigration or political issues

Also If you have traveled extensively or internationally, you might appreci... Read more Read less

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You like solo shows with brilliant story telling and engaging content.

Don't see it if You don't like seeing only one actor on stage for 90 minutes.

Best creation of something from nothing, Edgy, Great staging, Funny, Clever

See it if you have dealt with bureaucracy for any reason. Great use of irony, story telling & social history. Some serious ideas and hilarious moments

Don't see it if you expect a plot. Lots of themes, no plot. A series of short monologues on an almost bare stage.

Resonant, Intelligent, Great staging, Great acting, Clever

See it if You like 1 man shows spare in production with well crafted Clever in its narrative simplicity and stories

Don't see it if You are sensitive to The dark and neon or seek high drama and a complex linear theme

Relevant, Refreshing, Great acting, Ambitious, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy theater with a point of view. This is a story of people caught in the randomness of political borders.

Don't see it if you don't like one-person shows.

Great writing, Great staging, Absorbing, Clever

See it if Thaddeus Phillips’s actual adventures, brilliantly written one man show visually surreal and engrossing. This is creative theater.

Don't see it if you don't like single actor shows. If staging with strop lights and darkness brother you.

Well acted, Entertaining, Clever, Ambitious

See it if You like one-person shows and are interested in how various nations, including the US, handle people at their borders

Don't see it if You are looking for a large cast of actors, are disturbed by mostly-bare sets and have no interest in travel

Also While the show was entertaining overall, it could use a little editing... Read more Read less

Resonant, Relevant, Intelligent, Great acting, Clever

See it if versatile acting, intelligent, great lighting, acting, and set.

Don't see it if one man show, immigration and political issues, controversial

Unusual, Entertaining, Quirky, Intelligent, Delightful

See it if Like solo performances, minimal ( but inventive) staging and stories about borders crossing with a ( too ? ) light political touch.

Don't see it if You expect a show that resembles a “ traditional “ play. This is a very inventive solo performance. The script could be more “ political “.

Great staging, Relevant, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if you're looking for a striking piece of theatre well-performed. Phillips tumbles through each of the 17 each more creative than the last.

Don't see it if the unevenness of the piece will really bother you. When it hits, it hits, but there are a few shallower moments.

Also Truly hilarious at times, and the stagecraft is peerless.

Great staging, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy topical, minimalist pieces of theatre that conjure images on stage and in your mind that are greater than the sum of their parts.

Don't see it if you want to see a traditional play or lavish musical.

Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Entertaining, Funny, Relevant

See it if You're a fan of theatre that explores geopolitical themes.

Don't see it if You don't like one man shows.

Funny, Relevant, Great acting, Clever

See it if you're impressed by one-man shows performed with a variety of characters. The lighting design was also on point.

Don't see it if you're over white men from America flaunting their privilege to travel where and how they want.

Relevant, Intelligent, Great staging, Clever

See it if You like contemporary and timely topics

Don't see it if You’re looking for entertainment

Indulgent, Ambitious, Interesting

See it if Thaddeus Phillips does a good job with the text, and I enjoyed the narrative overall, but I wasn't entirely sure how to feel about it at the

Don't see it if end...the individual vignettes were mostly good, but the central thesis could have been stronger. Worth a cheap ticket, tho.

Relevant, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you want an interesting and well-performed look into what it is to travel the world

Don't see it if you don't like one-man shows or shows that don't follow a linear progression

Quirky, Intelligent, Edgy

See it if You enjoy one man shows and don't mind not understanding every word (some different languages spoken). Good storytelling and staging.

Don't see it if You can't handle many lighting changes (quite dark at times). Less emphasis on US border than would have thought, not very political.

Good concept, Quirky, Clever, Great lighting

See it if you've travelled to some of the 17 places, like travel monologues, and appreciate a creative use of a spare stage.

Don't see it if you don't like one person shows, stories that jump around, immigrants or the mixing of funny and serious themes at the same time.

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Cast & Creatives (3)