FROZEN ASSETS, Shattered Globe Theatre. This British import–powerful stuff when Shattered Globe first detonated it in 1992 and terrific today–combines adventure with a social conscience. In Barrie Keefe’s dark 1978 comedy, a hard-luck teenager is wrongly accused of killing a reform-school officer, then escapes the Borstal and runs for his life, ending up in the ruined dockyards of East London. The play’s sole reality principle, forthright Buddy is a British blend of Holden Caulfield and Huckleberry Finn; Keefe’s big-hearted survivor becomes the standard by which we measure the rogues and Samaritans he encounters, including a hypocritical Labor minister, bullying burglar, hysterical matron, dithering dowager, and pederastic peer. With an economy of stroke but abundance of heart, Keefe conjures up a picaresque, neo-Dickensian world of outsize villains, corrupt snobs, and unexpected champions.

Directed by Nick Bowling, Shattered Globe’s 12 ensemble members tear into this actor-friendly script with contagious fervor and nearly perfect accents. Steve Keys’s modern-day Bill Sikes, Eileen Niccolai’s affected socialite, Dan Turek’s effete do-gooder, Lily Shaw’s selfish yup, and Jeff Alguire’s decent dentist are all terrific. Rebecca Jordan plays Buddy’s battered sister with heart-shaking authenticity, and Leonard Kraft is moving as the washed-up prizefighter who offers Buddy a way out. Joe Sikora–a young natural who should carve out a considerable career–makes Buddy a force of nature, solidly conveying the boy’s showdown with a world that squanders troubled youth.

–Lawrence Bommer