In the opening scene of Lucy Loves Me, at INTAR Theatre, Milton (Gerardo Rodriguez, deliciously perverse) a bachelor in a robe, wrings a bleeding chicken into the bathtub. Then, stripping to a thong, Milton spread-eagles over the tub and mimes intercourse until interrupted by the doorbell: pizza delivery. Surprisingly, the delivery boy is not a boy, but a beautiful woman, and Milton’s whole manner changes. He becomes stuttering and deferential, and decides that he and the woman, Lucy (Bertha Leal), share a weird kind of bond.
Both Lucy and her mother, Cookie (Annie Henk—think Blanche DuBois with a Bronx accent), vie for Milton’s affection, even traveling all the way to Connecticut to compete for the title of Miss Oyster Festival. Moving deftly on a small set rendered in reds and blues, the three actors conjure rich and shifting tensions. Their discomfort, desperation, and sexual energy is palpable to the audience.
What occurs between the characters doesn’t always make perfect logical sense, but it’s founded on emotional intuition. In playwright Migdalia Cruz’s vision, everyone is always performing, both for themselves and for each other. Cookie parades around her living room in an old Esther Williams swim cap. Milton wears lipstick when he’s alone and croons Desi Arnaz. But despite—or because of—such oddities, Lucy Loves Me is also hilarious. As Milton and Lucy, both hating their bodies, try to seduce each other, Lucy assures Milton, “You’re thin.” He replies, “I’m regular.” Lucy rejoins, “Regular’s something you are in the bathroom.” This play is not regular–or normal–but it’s healthy, honestly acted, and viscerally disturbing.