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GALA Hispanic Theatre The Young Lady From Tacna

By • Feb 11th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
La señorita de Tacna (The Young Lady From Tacna)
GALA Hispanic Theatre: (Info) (Web)
GALA Theatre-Tivoli, Washington DC
Through March 9th
2:00 with intermission
$20-$42
Reviewed February 7th, 2014

La señorita de Tacna is about a playwright struggling to write a play. Neither the play nor the playwright is notably successful.

In contrast, Mario Vargas Llosa, the author of La señorita de Tacna, is hugely successful. He has written a couple dozen spectacular novels, many of them international best sellers. He won the 2010 Nobel Prize for literature. In 2011, the Spanish government actually invested him with nobility, naming him El Marqués de Vargas Llosa I.

As a playwright, Vargas Llosa is a dabbler. Of his nine dramatic works, La señorita is the best known.

What makes the play interesting is its examination of a writer’s creative process. The protagonist, Belisario, sits off on the left side of the stage. He taps at a typewriter. Exasperated, he yanks out page after page, balls them up and throws them away. He explains that his characters are unruly. They head off unbidden on dramatic detours. He himself is an unruly character. He is supposedly trying to write something about fragments of memory from his childhood, embellishing known facts and filling in gaps with improvised fictions.

He berates himself for getting off track. He wants something romantic, a love story. He comes up with a disjointed unhappy family tale. Sexual hysteria and intimations of incest, sadism and masochism compete with bickering about money. A pervading irritant is the erratic title character.

The current GALA Hispanic Theatre production of La señorita gives the play an appropriately vague and tentative look. Director José Carrasquillo and his designers create a nowhere-in-particular look. Setting (Giorgos Tsappas), costumes (Ivania Stack), sound (Brendan Vierra) and lighting (Cory Ryan Frank) hint at times and places ranging from late 19th Century small towns to mid 20th Century cities. Tacna is a small town on the Chile/Peru border. Belisario and his distressed typing are located in Lima.

Carrasquillo’s eight actors struggle along in ways that recall Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters in Search of an Author. Carlos Castillo plays Vargas Llosa’s exasperated playwright. Luz Nicolás is the “Señorita,” switching back and forth between innocent ingenue and bitter old woman. Also bouncing around back and forth in place and time are Andrea Aranguren as both a femme fatale and a long-suffering mother, Victor Maldonado as a dashing Chilean officer, Marian Licha as a fading grande dame, Hugo Medrano as a fading patriarch and Tim Pabon and Oscar Ceville, sometimes as eager youths and sometimes as exemplars of disillusioned middle-age.

Along the way, Vargas Llosa tosses in red herrings: did a black man with a white mask really sneak into a high society ball? Did the Señorita really dance with him only to discover, with unspeakable horror, that he was black? Did outraged gentlemen really beat the intruder with walking sticks? Was the señorita — a proud Peruvian — really engaged to be married to the dashing Chilean invader? Was the marriage aborted at the last minute when the bride-to-be discovered that the groom-to-be was lustful? Was he was having an affair with an equally lustful married woman? Did grandpa really have an affair with an Indian woman? Oh, the horror! Was she, like the intruding black man, severely beaten? What’s with all the sex-and-violence-and-racism mishmash?

As the story proceeds, it’s as if we were reading a bewildering and barely legible draft, full of cross outs and erasures and rewrites.

Yet, in his novels, Vargas Llosa is the master of lucid storytelling. On historical matters, his research is phenomenal. “The War at the End of the World”, his epic about a 19th Century apocalyptic religious movement in Brazil, is an exquisite mosaic of fact and fiction, as is “The Feast of the Goat,” his retelling of the rise and fall of the 20th Century Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. Over and over again, Vargas Llosa has proven to be a virtuoso of relevance and plausibility when it comes to imaginative writing.

When he wants to, Vargas Llosa adheres scrupulously to the literary imperative of fostering a willing suspension of disbelief. In La señorita de Tacna, he seems to be engaging in a willful cultivation of disbelief.

Photo Gallery

Carlos Castillo (Belisario) and Luz Nicolas (Mamae) Victor Maldonado (Joaquin) and Luz Nicolas (Mamae)
Carlos Castillo (Belisario) and Luz Nicolas (Mamae)
Victor Maldonado (Joaquin) and Luz Nicolas (Mamae)

Photos by Lonnie Tague

Cast

  • Mamae: Luz Nicolas
  • Belisario: Carlos Castillo
  • Amelia/Carlota: Andrea Aranguren
  • Joaquin: Victor Maldonado
  • Abuela Carmen: Marian Licha
  • Abuela Pedro: Hugo Medrano
  • Agustin: Tim Pabon
  • Cesar: Oscar Ceville
    • Production Staff

      • Producing Artistic Director: Hugo Medrano
      • Associate Producing Director: Abel Lopez
      • Director: Jose Carrasquillo
      • Scenic Design: Giorgos Tsappas
      • Lighting Design: Cory Ryan Frank
      • Costume Design: Ivania Stack
      • Sound Design: Brendon Vierra
      • Properties Design: Marie Schneggenburger
      • Stage Manager: Cecilia Cackley
      • Technical Director: Andres Luque
      • Production Manager: Anna E. Bate
      • Producer: Abel Lopez
      • House Managers: David Kriesberg, Alida Yath
      • Costume Design Assistants: Chelsey Schuller, Robert Croghan
      • Wardrobe/Backstage Manager: Jenny Cisneros
      • Assistant Technical Director: Linda Di Bernardo
      • Master Electrician: Aaron Haag
      • Electricians: Alison Burris, Christian Campbell, Chris Elwell, Joshua Midgett, Gabriel Rodriguez, John Rubin, Eliza Walker
      • Master Carpenter: Ryan Lanham
      • Carpenters: Christian Campbell, Steven Romero, Christian Sanchez
      • Scenic Charge: Marisa “Za” Johns
      • Scenic Painters: Ashley Bailey, Danielle DeFrancesco, Matt Reckeweg
      • Fight Choreographer: Mona Lisa Arias
      • Light Board Operator: Cecilia Cackley
      • Sound Board Operator: Artemis Lopez
      • Surtitles Programmer: Laura Smith
      • Surtitles operator: Esther Gentile, Laura Smith
      • Photographer: Lonnie Tague
      • Graphic Design: Watermark Design
      • Playbill: Christopher Shell

      Disclaimer: GALA Hispanic Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

One Response »

  1. I believe if you search Internet you will find that Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010, for his narrative power, his search for truths about history, culture and geography, his “hyper-realism.” Llosa is in the same league as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. . Yes, he is known for his novels, and I have read several of them, in which he mixes contemporary political leaders, like Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic (in the brilliant The Feast of the Goat) or the allegorical masterpiece, In Praise of the Stepmother, which depicts evil as a gorgeous, Cupid-like young boy. Also, “The War Llosa’s plays appear to follow the same pattern as the novels. They mix in contemporary figures, like the Peruvian poet, Federico Barreto (not Lorca), who actually lived and had profound influence on Mamae, the young lady from Tacna. Also, how the historical impact of the War of the Pacific between Peru and Chile impacts on the lives of Mamae’s family. Your reviewer missed the point in The Young Lady From Tacna, also a masterpiece. Llosa considered himself a playwright first before a novelist. Sorry, I have to respectfully disagree with your review. Read my review on DCTheatrescene.com. Rosalind Lacy