Credit: Austin D. Oie

Broken Nose Theatre presents the midwest premiere of Stephen Spotswood’s drama about a young woman who confronts her demons by climbing into the steel cage of an MMA ring. The metaphor of the hero literally punching out her problems couldn’t be more, er, on the nose, but in the hands of this capable cast and with just enough real-life detail, this production manages to transcend cliche and end up with an affecting, often-powerful story of perseverance.

Halo (Elise Marie Davis) turns up at a local MMA gym not knowing exactly why she’s there, but needing an outlet to defuse the rage she feels after losing her job and ending her marriage. Although initially hesitant, Gina (August N. Forman) agrees to become her trainer. The pair form an unlikely bond that helps both confront the familial and societal forces keeping them from reaching their goals. Putting on boxing gloves gives Halo the power to deal with an alcoholic mother and overbearing sister; taking on a protege helps Gina ease their sense of isolation from family and friends (due, apparently, to their gender presentation) and battle with opioid addiction.

Can a woman really punch her way out of life’s problems? As Halo herself admits to her sister in their most heartfelt conversation, the ring is the one place where she feels she can actually win. That feeling, however fleeting, may be enough fuel to keep one going. Elizabeth Laidlaw directed.   v