“17 Border Crossings,” a effectiveness perform by Thaddeus Phillips that touched down at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica for two performances this weekend, seems topical and maybe a minimal earnest.
The generation, directed by Tatiana Mallarino (Phillips’ spouse), is additional of an unusually themed travelogue flecked with politics. Phillips, who starts with the popular St. Crispin’s Working day speech from Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” usually takes his viewers on a voyage all over the globe. But his target is not to go to crowded tourist attractions or sample exotic cuisine.
In its place, he spends the bulk of his time checking out these seriously patrolled areas concerning countries — the border checks that, for all their bureaucratic drabness, have a way of reflecting national temperaments.
Visualize wandering the world and only reporting about the tense ordeals of passing by way of customs. It is a credit rating to Phillips’ resourcefulness as a storyteller that he captures so several telling aspects about area and interval even though creeping as a result of global limbos.
In the soloist custom of Spalding Grey and Mike Daisey, Phillips usually takes occasional refuge at the rear of a desk. But his wanderlust can not be contained. A physical performer who will come across as an city Everyman, he turns “17 Border Crossings,” which he developed and scenically designed, into a visual album of anecdotes.
His recollections of his passage amongst Hungary and Serbia, Israel and Jordan, and Syria and Greece are illustrated not pictorially but theatrically. A rack of lights and speakers is ingeniously deployed to create exclusive spaces that conjure the internal logistics of being a stranger in an ambiguously welcoming land.
David Todaro’s lights design and style goes from fluorescent to feverish shade as the geography of Phillips’ encounter shifts. Similarly versatile is Robert Kaplowitz’s seem layout, which is specifically productive at simulating people tones of indecipherability as foreign tongues blare out of public handle units. (Phillips’ linguistic mimicry conveys the distinct culture sensibilities demanding his passport.)
The structure of the piece has a absolutely free-form individuality. There’s almost nothing hectoring about “17 Border Crossings.” The political mother nature of the get the job done is much more implicit than explicit. In recollecting his journeys, Phillips sets out to humanize the vulnerable explorer precariously poised amongst governments.
He relates the tragic tale of Jose Matada, a gardener from Mozambique who was a stowaway on a aircraft from Angola that was headed to London. But journey isn’t an act of desperation for Phillips. He goes to Croatia when conflict is erupting in the area to meet a female who doesn’t clearly show up. He is denied entry into Bali from Singapore for the reason that the particular person accompanying him has a passport from a freshly fashioned nation that isn’t nonetheless incorporated on the formal list.
Human beings are hardwired to go and states are set up to regulate and restrict their motion. The conflict, while painfully in the news of late, is fundamental to human society. At a point when the discussion around immigration has become rancorously polarized, Phillips shifts the concentration to the plight of the traveler in an try to lay down a psychological bridge to the refugee.
The scenario may possibly have been extra powerfully manufactured if the 17 crossings were being threaded into a much more cohesive narrative. The arrangement at times feels as desultory as a scrapbook.
Phillips limits what he reveals about himself. We hear about his spouse and son on summer months trip in Spain and an out-of-system working experience on natural psychedelics in the Amazon. But he doesn’t convey to us considerably about the itinerant protagonist the script designates as the Passenger. Allegorical energy is harnessed, nevertheless the unfastened group invites a different sort of autobiographical indulgence. Reminiscences are summoned, but the effect is to develop the collage devoid of deepening it.
The creating is also scattershot to tie the disparate parts collectively. But there are times when the political anticipations raised by the title are poetically met.
A scene from Mostar, a after harmonious metropolis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, files the “wall of sound” erected by way of a standoff in between the Muslim phone to prayer and Catholic church bells. Most haunting of all is the figure Phillips asks us to consider at the show’s conclusion: a deported Mexican immigrant named Pablo who dangers his existence to reunite with his family in The usa.
Phillips doesn’t have a great deal in frequent with this gentleman. But as a fellow traveler in just about every feeling, he identifies with his story.