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Teater Koma’s ‘Opera Kecoa’ returns to stage after 13 years

The Jakarta Post — Following Semar Gugat, Teater Koma returns with one of its most popular plays, Opera Kecoa (Cockroach Opera). Slated to run until Nov. 20 at Graha Bhakti Budaya at Taman Ismail Marzuki, Central Jakarta, the three-hour play narrates a story revolving around minorities in Jakarta who are searching for justice.

Set in a slum, the play opens in a dreary atmosphere; several performers show up on stage, dancing and singing, while a screen in the background shows footage of Jakarta. Roima then enters, carrying his transvestite beau Julini, who has been shot by an officer. The story then flashes back to a time when Julini was still alive, sleeping on a thin sheet across Roima. Julini tries to wake him up as they must move quickly before the officers come and shoo them away.

Roima and Julini had just returned from their hometown. Upon arriving in the city, Roima is excited to meet their old friends, Tarsih and Tuminah, although Julini does not seem so interested. They later meet Tarsih, the owner of a brothel for poor sex workers that has received an eviction notice from the authorities. Tuminah is considered among the prettiest sex workers and receives mostly government official clientele.

As he tries to find a job with the help of Tuminah, Roima joins a thief group led by Kumis. However, the job results in him seeing less and less of Julini. Meanwhile, Tuminah’s brother, Tibal, has been released from prison and he plans to take revenge on Kumis. The situation gets more complicated when Julini becomes jealous of Tuminah, which causes a quarrel with Roima. In the meantime, the slum where the characters live catches fire from an unknown cause. Amid the drama, there is a magician who persuades the characters to buy cockroach repellent.

Opera Kecoak (Teater Koma)
Opera Kecoak (Teater Koma)

Despite its many criticisms of the government, Opera Kecoa entertainingly combines the reality of living as a low-income person in Jakarta with naughty jokes, which continuously draw laughter from the audiences, especially when Julini shows up with his likable straightforward character.

The play was first performed in 1985 at Graha Bhakti Budaya, as the second part of a trilogy consisting of Bom Waktu, Opera Kecoa and Opera Julini. “After 31 years since its first performance, the play still reflects the current situation,” said the play’s writer and director N. Riantiarno as quoted by Antara news agency. The play was banned by the authorities in 1990, while its performance in Bandung was hit with a bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax. Following the ban, Opera Kecoa was later performed in Australia in 1992.

Among the cast for this year’s play are Ratna Riantiarno, Bayu Dharmawan Saleh, Tuti Hartati, Joind Bayuwinanda, Budi Ros, Rangga Riantiarno and Dorias Pribadi. Meanwhile, the music is composed by the late Harry Roesli and rearranged by Fero Aldiansya. Tickets can be purchased through the theater’s official website, with prices starting at Rp 100,000 (US$7 (


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