NEW YORK — Prepare to be surrounded — and, ultimately, to surrender.

Messy, noisy, overwhelming life rushes up and down the aisles of the Linda Gross Theater in Manhattan. It would be impossible, after all, for any single stage to contain the heaving humanity of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven,” which opened Monday night.

The private conflicts so vibrantly embodied here have a way of sloshing out of Narelle Sissons’ capacious, multichambered set and flowing to the back of the theater. The many, many characters in this production, residents of a New York City shelter for homeless and abused women, are repeatedly asked to keep their business — their fights, their lovemaking, their drinking and drugging — off the streets and out of public view.

But these angry, rootless people are no good at following orders. I mean from anyone, including perhaps even the extremely talented and openhearted playwright who invented them.

Featuring an ensemble of 18 performers (19, if you count the goat), directed by one very busy traffic cop, Jon Ortiz, this coproduction of the LAByrinth and Atlantic theater companies operates on a scale seldom encountered off-Broadway. Its teeming expansiveness rivals that of “The Ferryman,” Jez Butterworth’s Tony Award-winning portrait of rural Ireland during the Troubles.

“Halfway Bitches” doesn’t have the thematic and poetic tightness, or complexity, of “The Ferryman” — or, for that matter, Guirgis’ own “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train,” “The ______ With the Hat” and “Between Riverside and Crazy,” which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Now a dense 2 hours and 45 minutes, “Halfway Bitches” was reported to have approached four hours in early previews, before being frozen in its current form.

Not that “frozen” could describe a show that sweats, cries and bleeds as copiously as this one. The embattled characters portrayed here may be always on the defensive, with knives, belts and mace at the ready in case of emergency. (And these folks exist in a constant state of emergency.) But each and every one of them has a gaping wound of a heart.

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In bringing a host of social outcasts into intimate and combative proximity, Guirgis is reworking a now old-fashioned template forged by Maxim Gorky’s “The Lower Depths” in the early 20th century. A production of the fabled Moscow Arts Theater, that group portrait set in a lodging house was a prototype for socially aware American dramas and films that flourished during the Great Depression, in works by the likes of Clifford Odets and Sidney Kingsley.

Those American variations and especially their later descendants, like Lanford Wilson’s “The Hot L Baltimore,” often teetered on the brink of both melodramatic bathos and quippy sitcom humor, in which everybody’s armed with zingers. Much of “Halfway Bitches” — which takes its title from a celebratory poem read by a 15-year-old forced into prostitution — also takes place on that slippery sentimental slope.

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I’ll admit that I spent the show’s first 10 minutes or so in a state of slightly irritable resistance, seeing so many curmudgeonly eccentrics assembled for an in-house talent night. But it wasn’t long before I succumbed to the surging vitality and diversity of its wayward throng of lost souls. When the script doesn’t provide the individualizing details that transcend stereotypes, the performances do. And Guirgis makes sure that every person onstage is filled with the contradictions that are part and parcel of being human.

There’s “no saint without a past, no sinner without a future,” as a priest named Father Miguel (David Anzuelo) says to the halfway house’s custodian, Joey Fresco (Victor Almanzar). It’s an adage corroborated by the Father, who has a possibly homicidal violent streak, and the married, womanizing Joey, who to his dismay has fallen in love with a woman with (and I paraphrase) a penis.

At the show’s center, on different sides of the institutional divide, are two formidable women. Hope House is run by the tough-loving Miss Rivera (she prefers Ms., but it’s the anachronistic “Miss” that sticks), played with paradoxically warm austerity by Elizabeth Rodriguez (a Tony nominee for Guirgis’ “Hat”).

The most commanding — and problematic (which is saying something) — of the residents she oversees is called Sarge, a bipolar Iraq veteran with a hair-trigger temper. Sarge is portrayed in a time-bomb performance by Liza Colón-Zayas (who appeared to very different but equally convincing effect as the seductive Church Lady of Guirgis’ “Riverside”).

Sarge is sleeping with Bella (Andrea Syglowski, fabulous), a single mother and former stripper and heroin addict, who is besties with Venus Ramirez (Esteban Andres Cruz), a transgender sex worker. The plot — or plots, I should say — involve an assortment of other intergenerational alliances and affairs, all conducted under the threat of the possible closure of this place, which most of these people have come to see as something like home.

I wish I had the space to describe every performance. But let me mention the lyrical elegance of Patrice Johnson Chevannes as a former dancer and actress in a wheelchair who longs only to die; the spasmodic gesticulations of Kara Young as the teen poet; and the hearty camaraderie of Benja Kay Thomas and Pernell Walker as two parolees whose community service includes tearing down the tents of homeless people. (“I cried,” says one of them. “And I ain’t known for my empathy.”)

Strangely, Ortiz’s direction is at its least assured in its group scenes, which lack the natural, clashing rhythms of impatient people herded together. Some of the more intimate encounters, however, are beautifully rendered: a vignette in which Venus bathes a sobbing, obese woman (Kristina Poe), who doesn’t want to see her own naked body; an intensely sexy reconciliation between Sarge and Bella; the moment when an exasperated, Nigerian-born social worker (Neil Tyrone Pritchard) startlingly converts his rage into song.

As usual, Guirgis spins memorably earthy dialogue that reaches for the heavens, including one of the most honest defenses for getting high I’ve ever heard.

Here is Bella just before she shoots up: “I don’t care what anybody says, like, ‘Dude, I slipped: I shot 10 baggies, drank a case of vodka, snorted Peru — but, ya know — it just didn’t work for me, it doesn’t work anymore’” That’s bull, she says. “It works. All of it. Always has, always will. Some things are just good. I hate when people are self-deluded, ya know?”

Guirgis doesn’t pass judgment on such pronouncements. He enfolds every one of his characters in a blanket of compassion that wisely never extends to the promise of happy endings. This unwieldy play may have its shortcomings. But you wind up forgiving them, just as Guirgis forgives those of his eternally unmoored characters.

‘Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven’

Through Dec. 29 at the Linda Gross Theater, Manhattan; 212-691-5919, atlantictheater.org. Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times .