This dissertation explores the temporal structure on the six published plays written by Mario Vargas Llosa (1936): La señorita de Tacna (1981), Kathie y el hipopótamo (1983), La Chunga (1986), El loco de los balcones (1993), Ojos bonitos, cuadros feos (1996), and Al pie del Támesis (2008).
Vargas Llosa's theatre displays a strong narrative purpose, in which we find several characters who either tell us stories or are looking to construct them. Therefore, topics such as literature, artistic creation, and writing in general are crucial in his dramas. These kinds of topics connect Vargas Llosa's dramatic work to the meta-theatre: a theatre where the line between real life and theatre almost vanishes.
We have analyzed Vargas Llosa's plays using an existentialist approach, mainly following Jean-Paul Sartre's and Albert Camus' philosophical ideas to understand the dramatic realm in which Vargas Llosa constructs his characters. According to this philosophical view, human beings are responsible for creating their own destiny. Several Vargas Llosa's characters are in search of an artistic identity, and through flash-backs and flash-forwards, they structure their own existence.
The topic of time is key in Vargas Llosa's dramatic project. It is through the reconstruction of time, sometimes done in a capricious way, that the characters make their lives—otherwise frustrated and shallow—more meaningful and productive. But, one could ask if happiness and fulfillment are at all possible in Vargas Llosa's dramatic worlds? In fact, it is our contention that meta-fiction and nostalgia are the only milieus where the protagonists have some snapshots of happiness.
The relevance given to the role of art and fiction in the plays of Vargas Llosa are analyzed as one of the major aesthetic concerns of this author who utilizes in his dramas most of the literary techniques he also uses in his narrative. Along with the topic of art, other ones such as family, nostalgia, freedom, defeat, frustration, anguish, love or lack of it, self-destruction, the passing of life, the ambiguity of life experiences, and utopia, are quite relevant as well in Vargas Llosa's dramatic project.