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Seven women are profiled in Pygmalion Productions' poignant and empowering production of "Seven," currently in its regional premiere at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

Here are their stories:

Inez (Betsy West) was raised Protestant in Northern Ireland and became an activist for workers' rights and fair economic practices after marrying a Catholic. "You must allow your humanity enough room to recognize the pain in others," she says.

Annabelle (Teresa Sanderson) recognized early that "in my country, poverty has a woman's face" and used her law school education to confront political corruption in Guatemala.

Farida (Tamera Howell) traveled the remotest regions of Afghanistan, promoting women's health care and education and fighting the repressive practices of the Taliban. "Build minds first, then buildings" is her guiding principle.

Hafsat (Angela Trusty) was inspired by the murders of her activist parents to promote the education and advancement of women in Nigeria. "Women are the greatest untapped resource in Africa," she believes.

Marina (Nova Calverley-Chase) started the first hotline for women victimized by the domestic violence rampant in Russia. "I heard you on the radio; you are telling my story," responded women who called in.

Mu Sochua (Kerry Lee) went to war against the sex trade and trafficking prevalent in Cambodia. Women are like a piece of cloth, she tells us; if it is stained, you are ruined.

Mukhtar (Toni Lugo) used the money she received as restitution for a brutal rape by neighboring village chieftains to build schools to educate young women in Pakistan. "If you are educated, you can fight for your rights," she says.

"Seven," written, appropriately enough, by seven different playwrights, is described as documentary theater, but it transcends the dry, detached style that the genre suggests by interconnecting the women's stories thematically. We hear them in insightful snatches as the women interact to describe how they found their voices, how they dealt with personal threats from the authorities that resulted, and how they found ways to go on, in some cases exiled from their homelands.

Director Lane Richins' simple staging and Kerry Lee's flowing choreography turn the production into a life-affirming dance of survival. The women are constantly in motion, using their brightly colored scarves to compose vivid stage pictures. The scarves combine with the set's hanging white drapes to reinforce Mu Sochua's image of women as cloth: fragile, yet resilient. Pilar I's stark lighting illuminates figures posed behind the drapes to add depth and drama to the women's stories.

Each actor shapes her performance around a central trait of her character, ranging from the liveliness of West's Inez, the disarming directness of Howell's Farida, and the anger of Sanderson's Annabelle to the self-confidence of Trusty's Hafsat, the soulfulness of Lugo's Mukhtar, the earnestness of Calverley-Chase's Marina, and the calm serenity of Lee's Mu Sochua. The actors play off each other so naturally that it feels as if they are in a room somewhere sharing their stories.

"Seven" compellingly communicates that violence and repression, and the sorrow they engender, are universal throughout our world. It also offers assurance that even the most disadvantaged individuals can speak out and do something about it.

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Pygmalion Production's 'Seven'

Bottom line • With its portrait of seven women speaking out against injustice, "Seven" offers hope that the poor and powerless possess the ability to make things better.

When • Reviewed Thursday, Feb. 23; Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 11, with an additional matinee Sunday, March 11 at 3 p.m.

Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Leona Wagner Black Box Theatre, 138 West Broadway, Salt Lake City.

Running tine • 75 minutes (no intermission)

Tickets • $20 (student discounts available); at 801-355-ARTS, http://www.arttix.org.

Info • pygmalionproductions.org.

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