Entertainment

Sundanese tale of divine
ape hits theater

The mighty ape: Lutung Kasarung (center) and his fellow apes rehearse for their musical performance of Lutung Kasarung (The Lost Ape) at Teater Jakarta in Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM). The musical will be staged from May 18 to May 27. (JP/R.Berto Wedhatama)
The mighty ape: Lutung Kasarung (center) and his fellow apes rehearse for their musical performance of Lutung Kasarung (The Lost Ape) at Teater Jakarta in Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM). The musical will be staged from May 18 to May 27. (JP/R.Berto Wedhatama)

The Lutung Kasarung musical finally hit the Indonesian capital after being staged in Bandung, West Java, last year. The musical is the latest addition to the list of performing arts that have entertained Jakartans over the past few years.

Lutung Kasarung, which literally means The Lost Ape, is from an old Sundanese quatrain. It was first brought to the public in 1921 by Bandung regent RA Wiranatakusumah in the form of gending karesmen; a drama using traditional music. Five years later, NV Java Film Company produced Lutung Kasarung, the first ever silent movie in the country.

Today, the musical presents a modern performance that combines music genres spanning from traditional to pop, rock and dangdut. The media preview in Teater Jakarta in Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) on Thursday evening opened with a wonderful transparent backdrop that provided the audience with a 3D effect due in part to skillful lighting and stage props.

As the traditional Sundanese string and percussion music filled the air, we watched a scene portraying typical peaceful daily village life, where young men playfully tease a group of young girls on their way to the river.

The serenity in Pasir Batang kingdom turned to chaos after soldiers arrived demanding higher taxes from small traders and farmers. The kingdom had fallen into dreadful circumstances after the king, Baginda Prabu Tapa Ageung, left his throne to live as a hermit.

The king appointed his youngest daughter, Purbasari, aged only seven, to hold the next throne. In the meantime, however, the eldest sibling, Purbararang, would be in charge until Purbasari was old enough to replace her. Filled with hatred and fearful of the thought of losing her authority, Purbararang cleverly ousted her sister from the kingdom by poisoning her body soap.

Purbasari’s beauty disappeared and was replaced by repulsive hairy red spots all over her skin. The devastated princess and her loyal servant were sent to the Cupu Mandalayu woods where they met Lutung Kasarung, a mighty ape that could talk and think like a human.

The dance performances invited applause from the audience. The act showcased an energetic traditional jaipong dance that was smoothly combined with ballet movements. The apes humorous theatrical movements and acrobatic actions also earned praise.

Fashion designer Deden Siswanto dressed the seven princesses with shiny strapless tops combined with cheerful batik, giving them a glamorous look. The platform footwear worn by some princesses, however, might have shifted the attention from the attire to the high heels. The musical drama also had clever tricks to keep the audience entertained while props were changed on stage.

Ratna Riantiarno had significant experience with the Teater Koma troupe before she became the head of production for the musical.

It will be staged twice a day in Teater Jakarta from May 18 to 27. For more information about the show, please visit musikallutungkasarung.com.

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