A mere scan of the title of the three-part weekend program which played at Highways through Sunday--"Colored Girls in the Morning: I Negress"--shows that this is one evening thriving on complications.
Black and African-American are, importantly, two words missing here, though it's in the middle of Highways' "Black December" month of African-American performance. The program of two solo pieces, Brandyn Barbara Artis' "Sister Girl" and "Black December" co-curator (with Keith Antar Mason) Joyce Guy's "Game 1: The Arrival," plus Robbie Mescudi's staged reading of her play-in-progress, "The Convergence of Selma," often suggests a mythic world, both in a past before Rosa Parks, and in a violent future.
The least mythic here is "Sister Girl," which has Artis frankly delivering her theatricalized diary fragments kept during her battle with breast cancer. She recounts her crossing this Rubicon of fear with such low-key likability that it's disarming; but when Artis has to put across moments of emotional catharsis, she's still low-key, as if she hasn't been able to get out of gear. Artis obviously wants this to be more than a pep talk on "Beating Cancer Without Chemotherapy," but, for now, "Sister Girl" is often no more than that.
Guy, on the other hand, immediately fills the space with vital humor and startling images: Against a projected slide portentously showing a chessboard (black and white squares, black chess pieces), she stands pregnant, then disrobes. With simple (sometimes too protracted) changes of clothing, Guy assumes seven personae of real variety and intelligence. She tracks women from slavery to the new corporate prison, but little of it has the obvious exposition of a history lesson.