A big heart beats a big budget anytime. Unpretentious and up-front, Tina Landau’s 75-minute one-act, workshopped in four weeks for the 1994 Humana Festival, details a very messy turning point in the life of one young gay man, Howie. Of course the year is 1969–the year of the Stonewall riots, following a decade of protests and assassinations. Howie, played by Jeff Town with warmth and immediacy, breaks loose from his suburban high school–the kind of human obedience school where outspoken teachers are out of work. Drawing on her vivid memories, Landau surrounds Howie with 60s icons: a drug freak who can only bliss out after he stops wearing underwear, a popular black athlete who resists the civil rights struggle, a radical feminist who’s ultimately afraid to run away from home. Charmingly confused, Howie can’t understand why anyone would call him a pile of sticks. But like Dorothy Gale (Howie’s alter ego here, with Greenwich Village standing in for the Emerald City), Howie is willing to entrust himself to a journey with no clear destination. Ryan Keller’s staging is jerkily paced and technically clunky (though the relentless acid-rock music design makes its point) but carries the same conviction as Landau’s more elaborate but no more warmhearted collaborations with Steppenwolf. Link’s Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, 773-784-7626. Through December 10: Friday-Sunday, 8 PM. $8.50.