You'd be hard-pressed to find an artist whose career has taken as many stratospheric turns over the past 30 years as Wallace Shawn's. From Obie-winning playwright to My Dinner With Andre, from the inconceivably evil Vizzini in The Princess Bride to the voice of Rex the Dinosaur in Toy Story, Shawn's work sets him apart from the pack by virtue of its dazzling diversity. Wallace Shawn's Real World, Fake World, Dream World sees him reading and reinterpreting his mysteriously titled 2009 collection of essays, Essays. It's a rare return to the fare scheduled by university performing arts departments before they decided they needed to be all razzle-dazzly and commercial. Shawn's centrist, philosophical musing out loud doesn't pretend to have answers, but it sure does like to ask questions. And yet his outlook on life, politics and the power of art is anything but navel-gazing: He has held his head high, following his own star and remaining, as ever, natty, unconventional and gently freaky.

Sat., Jan. 22, 8 p.m., 2011

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