Metro Weekly

Magic Act

Jose Carrasquillo returns to GALA with a picturesque puzzle

”I don’t do realism well, but I do magic realism very well,” theater director Jose Carrasquillo says, by way of touting his latest show, The Girl from Tacna, now at GALA Theatre. ”It’s really worth seeing because of that: Whether you like this play or not, visually it’s very impressive.”

The play, written by Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, is a somewhat surreal, time-shifting exploration into one Peruvian family’s rich history. ”It’s a memory play,” Carrasquillo says, ”and the way it’s written, it really summons up a lot of stunning images that you have to do onstage.” The play focuses on a writer’s work in telling his family’s story over several generations. ”As memories come to him, they three-dimensionalize onstage,” he explains.

La Senorita de Tacna at GALA

La Señorita de Tacna at GALA

(Photo by Lonnie Tague)

Performed at GALA in Spanish, with English surtitles, the play is in a largely unstructured style, featuring no discrete scenes and an intentionally blurry sense of time and place. It sounds confusing, even overambitious, and it was — on paper.

”I read it a dozen times [and] I still wasn’t certain what the play was about,” Carrasquillo concedes, noting that it took him nearly three weeks to solve its storytelling puzzle as well as the theatrical challenge in presenting it. ”It’s really cohesive,” he says about the staged result. ”It’s not like it’s choppy or anything. It just comes together and people get it.”

Carrasquillo, who also runs a guesthouse with his partner in his native Puerto Rico, is currently focused on helping produce a major, month-long, national Latino theater festival launching this fall in Los Angeles. Over the past couple decades Carrasquillo has directed for most of D.C.’s major theater companies, from the Kennedy Center to Signature Theatre to Woolly Mammoth.

But The Young Lady from Tacna is his first show in a while. ”I actually took a little sabbatical for two years,” he says, a time to recharge, read and travel, checking off things on his bucket list, including hiking Machu Picchu and going to Spain. ‘

The Girl from Tacna runs to March 9 at GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square, 3333 14th St. NW. Tickets are $38 to $42. Performed in Spanish with English surtitles. Call 202-234-7174 or visit

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.