Think Beckett’s brilliant? Try these.

âÄúThe Difficulty of Crossing a FieldâÄù Author: Mac Wellman Publisher: University of Minnesota Press Pages: 342 Price: $22.95 Playwright Mac WellmanâÄôs website is titled âÄúDamnable Scribbler. âÄú At first glance, this is a demeaning reference to the man, but on second thought it perfectly embodies WellmanâÄôs writing: fast, witty, playful, unorthodox and, maybe most importantly, unsettling. Wellman is an award-winning New York writer with more than 40 plays to his name , all of them out-of-the-box experiences that capitalize on his experimental style. This month marks the release of âÄúThe Difficulty of Crossing a Field,âÄù a collection of nine new plays. They range from âÄúAntigone ,âÄù a seemingly complete revamping of SophoclesâÄô classic, to âÄúSpeculations,âÄù a confounding âÄúessay on the theaterâÄù that could easily be read by an evil Disney character hidden away in a demonic lair, tapping a glowing orb, and plotting against the world. Wellman is only discussing theater, usually in terms that most people never care to think about. You can be sure of a few things: Wellman is very smart. Witty too. Accessible? Not as much. But thatâÄôs not really the point. His plays challenge for a reason. The introduction to the book lets readers know right off that Wellman is not interested in simple conclusions, such as âÄúAbuse is bad!âÄù and âÄúFamilies are good!âÄù Instead, WellmanâÄôs world is a little less sturdy, and much less conventional. The book opens with âÄúInfrared,âÄù a play that confuses the reader with just its list of characters. ThereâÄôs the narrator, whoâÄôs described as âÄúan ungainly self in search of itself.âÄù Then thereâÄôs Cathy X, a woman with a dual identity. From there, things get even trickier with the introduction of Cathy XâÄôs Shadow, âÄúa spooky temporal disturbance with a mind of its own.âÄù Despite the seemingly huge seriousness of the subject, (the play opens with a confession from the narrator, âÄúI donâÄôt know what I am, and IâÄôm not sure thereâÄôs a âÄúwhoâÄù to be found there, or here, I meanâÄù), the dialogue is always playful, in a manner that would immediately remind any lover of modern playwriting of BeckettâÄôs âÄúWaiting for Godot. âÄú Similar witty wordplay introduces the play âÄúBitter Bierce,âÄù based on the life of writer Ambrose Bierce. In just a few lines, Bierce is established as âÄúa tall, elegant, and very capable-looking man.âÄù Juxtaposed with that description is the depiction of a cabbage; âÄúan elegant, very capable looking and quite green âĦ cabbage.âÄù Already Wellman is joking. WellmanâÄôs collection is likely to prompt more head-scratching than the thought of a monkey working as an aeronautical engineer, but WellmanâÄôs ability to string together words that range from hyper-serious to super-silly creates an enjoyable, if not somewhat overwhelming, trip. After all, for someone who aims to make experimental theater, not everything should be simple. And here it definitely isnâÄôt.