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Teater Koma's ‘Tanda Cinta’: An exploration of love, life

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, July 31, 2020  /  11:58 am
Teater Koma's ‘Tanda Cinta’: An exploration of love, life

Unanswered questions: 'Tanda Cinta' (Sign of Love) was conceived by actor and playwright Nano Riantiarno for his 27th wedding anniversary with his wife and fellow actor Ratna Riantiarno. (Courtesy of Teater Koma/-)

Teater Koma’s Tanda Cinta (Sign of Love) provides a glimpse into a question all couples have probably thought about but repress: What happens when the spark disappears?

After several streams of laugh-inducing plays, Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation’s #NontonTeaterDiRumahAja program serves up something more dramatic.

Tanda Cinta (Sign of Love) by theater troupe Teater Koma, one of Indonesia’s biggest and most prominent theatrical ensembles, streamed via Indonesia Kaya’s website and YouTube account.

Virtual shows have become a popular way to reach the audience since the pandemic has made it almost impossible for many art groups to deliver performances like before.

Teater Koma, for one, has announced the rescheduling of its 160th production, Sampek Engtay, from its originally planned premiere in March to Jan. 30-31, 2021 at the Ciputra Artpreneur theater in South Jakarta.

Tanda Cinta, like previous entries in the program, was recorded footage, this one being from a series of performances held from July 27 to 29, 2005.

The date of the original play is also significant, as it marked actors Nano Riantiarno and Ratna Riantiarno’s 27th wedding anniversary.

While that might be considered some neat trivia, the fact of the matter is that Tanda Cinta‘s subject matter is very much relevant for any couple in a relationship.

As the years go by: 'Tanda Cinta' centers on a married couple and the age-old question of love.As the years go by: 'Tanda Cinta' centers on a married couple and the age-old question of love. (Courtesy of Teater Koma/-)

Nano and Ratna portray a married couple entering old age, when the question hits: “Does love still exist between us?”

The husband wants a simple yes-or-no answer to the question, but the wife’s lengthy answer just raises more questions.

For her, love does not always come in the form of words but also through action. For him, though actions are important, so are words.

Still curious, the husband prints out leaflets to be spread in public with the question. With only a simple yes-or-no answer, he hopes to find an answer, but none of the leaflets are returned and thus, no answers. He asks the skies, but still no answer.

As the years go by, the husband eventually finds that the answer was there all along: The faithful wife is the source of his answers, and his question has been answered long ago.

Much of the play is straightforward with dialogues and monologues, with the addition of what can be considered performance art between scenes.

Hear me out: Like other Teater Koma productions, 'Tanda Cinta' is filled with political undertones.Hear me out: Like other Teater Koma productions, 'Tanda Cinta' is filled with political undertones. (Courtesy of Teater Koma/-)

Though the play’s theme is rather serious, there are still laughs here and there, like how in a rant about political headlines and bad news, Nano slips in a line about theater criticism in the newspapers.

Political themes are also very much prevalent in the play, like when the wife questions whether the husband’s supposed 10,000 respondents could possibly represent the country’s 200 million inhabitants.

Other laughs are less political, like how the wife teases the husband about an envelope full of pictures of women that he says is a stack of bills. However, he soon brings her an envelope filled with pictures of men, ostensibly hers.

Tanda Cinta is reminiscent of a married couple’s daily life, with the husband and wife sitting in their chairs in the morning. He rants about political issues of the day while she listens patiently and contributes to the sometimes one-sided conversation.

Amidst rants and arguments, questions and thoughts on love and relationships will show up regardless. The golden question of the play is a personal one, one that every couple should find the answer to in their own way.

Nano, who also served as the director for the play, said the question could also be considered a latent question for society at large.

“If people loved each other, there would be no conflicts, no tensions related to race, ethnicity or religion, no corruption and the like. It is our shared task to foster love between humans,” he said in a statement.

As for Tanda Cinta’s origins, Nano revealed in an Instagram Live session ahead of the stream that the script was a gift for his wife to celebrate their anniversary.

Meanwhile, Ratna said that, at first, she was disappointed with the gift but later warmed to the idea.

“After I thought about it some more, being given a script and playing it together has never been done before, so I was really proud of being given such a unique gift,” she said.

However, even though the script was created for a personal celebration, he noted that the married couple in the play was meant to represent couples in general.

“It’s meant to be general, so that people can see [themselves], especially the ending; from their youth to old age. The main question is not answered at first, but it is answered as they become older,” he said.

Ratna said the love in the question was a metaphor, not as a love between husband and wife, but rather as love between all humans. “If there is no love, then danger prevails.” (ste)

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