Credit: Michael Brosilow

Chicago playwright Mary Bonnett’s new drama, the fourth in a cycle examining the myriad consequences of sex trafficking, is exponentially more intricate and challenging than you might expect an issue play from a company called Her Story Theater to be. First, it pulls no punches. Every time attorney J.B. (Ira Amyx) logs on to a chat board for men comparing notes on the underage prostitutes they’ve bought—and he logs in obsessively during the play’s 70 minutes—their sickening comments appear on a large screen (in the first moments, we’re witness to men debating the relative value of “wet or tight pussy”). And second, only one of the three characters—J.B.’s client Ruth (Jamise Wright), a distraught mother whose 16-year-old daughter was lured into sex work and subsequently murdered—is the sort of masked authorial voice typical of such plays, her overwritten emotional flourishes designed largely to steer an audience toward right thinking.

The other two characters—J.B. and his troubled teenage son Eddie (Joshua Zambrano)—are complicated creations locked in a nearly unfathomable battle. Perpetually bullied Eddie has beaten his chronic abuser nearly to death, and J.B. must keep the boy out of legal trouble, all while the kid threatens to disclose his father’s horrifying “hobby.” Director John Mossman pulls shaded, fervent performances from Amyx and Zambrano, making a potentially overcooked predicament feel unsettlingly true.

The final plot twist, centered around Ruth and J.B., strains credulity beyond breaking. Perhaps a great two-man play waits to emerge.   v