In the Boom Boom Room, Artistic Home Ensemble, at the Cornelia Arts Building. You’ve got to slog through a lot of waste to get to the heart of David Rabe’s rambling, cliche-ridden play about a young dancer trying to survive in a brutally misogynist world. Set in 1968, this 1974 work follows pure-hearted Chrissy as she struggles to overcome the crippling effects of childhood sexual abuse; her sense of self-worth destroyed, she madly scrambles to win the affection of everyone she encounters, but especially the men who offer little but cruel words and clenched fists.

A similar excess weighs down Kathy Scambiatterra’s production, from cartoonish overacting to scattershot blocking to a wandering trio of go-go dancers who seem to add five minutes to every scene change. But like Rabe, Scambiatterra feels deeply for her protagonist, and she never lets her cast’s overexuberance cheapen the tragedy at the play’s center. At that center, playing Chrissy, is the remarkable Leavey Ballou: she turns in one of the most hilarious, heartbreaking performances you’re likely to see this year. Although on opening night she spent her first 20 minutes onstage in an unsettled, one-note quiver, by the end of the evening she’d modulated her skittishness into a rich, devastating portrait.

–Justin Hayford