Renaissance Man

In 1987, The Princess Bride was released in theaters; an entire generation of children has lines from the eminently quotable film seared into their brains. One of those lines was uttered by the self-important and blustery villain, Vizzini, who heralded every foiled plot by throwing his hands up and yelling “Inconceivable!” The line was the perfect verbal encapsulation of frustration, disbelief, and anger. You forgot to pack underwear? Inconceivable! Vizzini was played by Wallace Shawn, one of those actors who pop up everywhere. He was on The Cosby Show, in Clueless, and on Gossip Girl. He was in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. He isn’t just a character actor, though. He is also a cerebral Obie-winning playwright whose controversial works take on moral dilemmas — one 1977 London production was attacked by Parliament for allegedly pornographic content. He has written political commentary for The Nation and translated Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. His fans include Michael Moore and Tony Kushner. And somewhere between acting and penning plays, he found time to write a book, simply titled Essays. The nonfiction collection tackles, among other topics, sex and the lives of Manhattan’s cultural elite. Shawn discusses his book (and other things) with writer Steven Winn.
Thu., Oct. 15, 8 p.m., 2009

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