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Edwin Garcia II takes on the task of portraying six loco characters for Shard Live Performance Collective's "Spic-o-Rama."

La Vida Local

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"Spic-o-rama"
Firehouse Theatre
8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday
Sept. 16-Oct. 2
$10, students $6
278-9391

We're taking a huge risk with this show, but we're looking for it to be a breakthrough for us," says Steve Forth, Shard Live Performance Collective's artistic director. Forth is talking about "Spic-o-rama," Shard Live's next production, which will open at the Firehouse Theatre Thursday. The fledgling company has staged five plays since its inception in February, but this show will be a departure. "We started safe," Forth says, "now, we hope to start stirring things up."

With "Spic-o-rama," Forth may get just what he's hoping for. The hilarious but controversial one-man show was created and performed on Broadway by John Leguizamo, who was recently seen in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam." It focuses on six Latino characters, all members of a highly dysfunctional family. In Shard Live's production, actor Edwin Garcia II takes on the challenge of bringing the entire loopy crew to life. Among the characters he'll portray: a gay brother who thinks he's white; a Desert Storm veteran named "Crazy," a drunken, brutally honest father; and a well-meaning but overstressed mother.

Though it features Hispanic characters, Garcia stresses that the show transcends ethnicity. "It's a show of archetypes, really," he says. "Each character finds an escape into their own little world. After a while, you stop relating to them as Hispanic." Still, the actor hopes the show finds an audience among Richmond Latinos. "There's not a lot of Hispanics in Richmond, it's not a very visible community," he says. "But we'd like to see them come out of the woodwork to see this show."

Forth concedes that the slur in the play's title can give potential audience members pause. "People need to know that the show is a celebration, it's not derogatory at all." Garcia says, "[Spic] is just a word. Leguizamo uses it in the show to desensitize people, to take the power away from the word."

Beyond working together on "Spic-o-rama," Forth and Garcia are best friends, a situation they both say enhances their artistic collaboration. "Steve tells me things that no one else could tell me," explains Garcia. "If I'm blowing it, I'm going to hear it."

The two met at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, and both found themselves in Richmond thanks to Theatre IV. Forth toured for a while with the company's traveling shows; this spring Garcia starred in Theatre IV's Theatre Gym production of "SubUrbia." When Forth started Shard Live, he brought together itinerant talents like Garcia to form a dynamic, ambitious troupe. That helps to explain the group's name which was derived from the image of pottery shards. "We're all pieces that come together for specific projects," Forth explains.

With "Spic-o-rama" the troupe is trying to reach a larger audience. As Garcia puts it, "We've done a bunch of great plays that not a lot of people have seen." To draw more people, Forth has priced tickets (for students) at less than admission to a movie. "This is a direct-contact piece and it won't work without people," he says. "It's a great show and it deserves a good

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