Lenong is a folk theater of the Betawi people, the natives living in Jakarta, with stories usually about crime and heroism. The play is conducted in the Betawi dialect. Performers of the play may number up to ten. They wear daily attire to make the performance look realistic.
There are two kinds of lenong groups, the lenong preman and the lenong denes. In the former group, performers speak in the daily Betawi dialect, and the story is about daily events; while in the latter, they speak a Betawi dialect mixed with aristocratic Malay, and the story is about events surrounding royal families. The play is preceded with a ceremony called ungkup where the performers pray for the success of the play. After the prayer there is an introductory speech, called sepik, to reveal the story’s plot and the characters one by one.
The play is filled with funny dialogs. The Betawi orchestra, called gambang kromong, accompanies the play, using a number of instruments. There are also singers who render Betawi and Chinese songs.
Lenong is popular today not only with the Betawi people but also with other ethnic groups. Its attraction lies with the simple plot of the story, humorous dialogs, and its sweet music.
In the past, lenong groups usually wandered from one village to another. They usually performed at circumcision and marriage parties. Today, the group plays at cultural centers and on television.