Women First

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The nine characters in Sheetal Gandhi's Bahu-Beti-Biwi ("Daughter-in-law, Daughter, Wife"), a solo show that blends theater, singing, and different forms of world dance, are both disparate and unified. "They're inspired by women in my life," she says, like her mom and her aunt, and yet they are also "imagined characters that come from old women's folk songs in North India," songs she first discovered on a research trip during college.

At the same time, she says, her characters could also be "the essence of one woman throughout, one person at different points of her life in different countries." Gandhi's show itself has already toured many countries, and Gandhi, a Bay Area native who has performed both on Broadway and with Cirque du Soleil, employs traditions as diverse as Kathak and West African dance. In exploring these nine women, she says, "I'm not placing men in the role of the oppressor." Instead, she's more concerned with "all the ways we oppress ourselves, the way tradition oppresses." Yet what emerges is a portrait not of victimhood but of strength. Her characters, she says, are "actively resisting and making choices and confronting their own self-imposed restrictions." And they are also always "longing for more."

Bahu-Beti-Biwi starts Friday at 8 p.m. and continues through Apr. 21 at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F. Admission is $20-$30; call 863-9834 or visit odctheater.org/buytickets.php.

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