Taffety Punk, the insurrectionist yet classically trained company now in its 15th year does what it does best in a pair of striking Greek adaptations by Anne Carson, presented in one invigorating sitting.

The first of them, "The Fragments of Sappho" emphasizes the holes in the poetry of Sappho, as derived from Carson's "If Not, Winter."

Where there was white space in that 2003 volume to indicate gaps, the theater has filled in with exuberant, angular and expressive dance - made even more intense by the theater's intimate setting. Phrases linger in the air as a handful of dancers in pink and burgundy express themselves in movement, with choreography by Katie C. Sopoci Drake.

Creating a sonic layer behind them is drummer Dan Crane and bassist Marcus Kyd, who is also director of the piece. Their electric, eclectic musings connect to the punk roots of the outfit. Of the two "chorus" members who recite the poems, Esther Williamson takes to a microphone to sing over the musicians and Teresa Spencer indicates the blanks in her text by cutting her voice while her mouth keeps moving, as if a movie with an audio glitch or a heavily redacted government report. As such, it speaks to modern times from its ancient roots.

So too does the fast moving second half of the program, "Antigonick," Carson's adaptation of the Antigone saga by Sophocles (spelled Sophocles here). It begins archly, with commentary on how the myth has played out and been interpreted over the years, including Brecht's version that involved being strapped to a door for the whole play (something Taffety Punk production could have devised).

The academic talk seems to be of little interest to Antigone (Lilian Oben), trapped in a political and personal rift. Her uncle Kreon, the new king (played by a puffed up Crane) has determined that of her sacked brothers who ran Thebes and have been killed, one be buried with honor and the other merely discarded and not buried at all.

It's up to Antigone to right this human wrong, but there is a penalty to be paid. Like the first piece, there is a kind of jittery impressionism at work, with one scene folding into the next, and all the while a worker (Katie Murphy) measuring things on stage as if for another ruler who will replace them all.

It's a splendid, weird, but oddly powerful abstraction (directed by Kelsey Mesa with choreography by Kelly King) that somehow delivers its strong message through its artful presentation. And just as unexpectedly it speaks to our time, with a woman standing strongly in the face of tyranny no matter the cost.

Running time: 100 minutes with one 10-minute intermission.

Photo credit: Erin White and Teresa Spencer in Taffety Punk's "The Fragments of Sappho." Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Taffety Punk's "The Fragments of Sappho" and "Antigonick" continues through June 8 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workship, 545 7th St SE. Tickets available online.

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From This Author Roger Catlin

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