AT EVENING'S END, the scorecard for "New Voices '85," Horizons Theater's engaging showcase of three new one- act plays, looks like this: one good try; one near miss redeemed by fine acting; and one home run.
Strike one: "Suzanne," a monologue by Baltimore poet Beth Joselow, has the hallmarks of a worthy poem. Suzanne, who looks bewildered as played by Constance Fowlkes, is a vague, faded beachcomber. After sweeping the sand with a metal detector, she spreads out her catch of the day on a kerchief and makes some associations with her sad life. What Suzanne is really searching for is a little tenderness.
Though the dramatic thrust here is minimal, Joselow provides some precise language and clever images. And there are several lovely silent visualizations as well -- Suzanne slowly peeling an orange, displaying her finds, looking off into a glowing sunset.
Strike two: Jude Adler's "Bruises" is a nastily funny confessional monologue delivered by a woman to her analyst. We've heard her complaints often enough before -- this would-be writer chafes and frets about her abusive lover, urban loneliness and elusive inspiration. "Bruises" seems about five minutes too long, degenerating in its closing moments into an unconvincing self-help sermon. But an extraordinary, edgy performance by Patricia Tulli makes the brief monologue startlingly realistic.
Home run: the evening's unequivocal winner is Ronni Brenner's "Change at Jamaica." Two strangers -- a chatty housewife and a tense, career-obsessed actress -- meet while waiting for a train, and in their awkward encounter they alternatingly attract and repel, uncovering some fascinating personal history. This could have been a strident, banal home- and-family vs. career situation, but Brenner's imagination and sense of the life in her characters yanks the dialogue and situation from the jaws of cliche.
Among other things, "Change" holds some small revelations about the process of acting, as when the actress, played by Cam McGee, coaches housewife Joni Lee Jones in a strength-revealing scene from her upcoming audition; and a scene in which the housewife takes the actress through the birth experience in a display of acting power that is exhausting and exhilarating.