When the curtain rises on Taylor Mac’s Tony-nominated Broadway debut, it reveals a mountain of bloody casualties. As is apparent from the title, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus (running through June 16), Pulitzer Prize finalist Mac is picking up where Shakespeare left off. It’s the fall of the Roman Empire and, after years of bloody battle, the country has been stolen by madmen.
Though set in 400 B.C., Mac (who uses the gender pronoun Judy) wrote Gary while thinking about the here and now. “I wanted to make something about this current place that we’re in,” says the playwright. “It seems like the history of the world is a cycle of horror, oftentimes, and maybe you can argue that we’re progressing our way out of it ever so slowly, but after the  election it felt like we’d taken a few steps back.”
Gary, directed by Tony winner George C. Wolfe, is part of a four-play cycle modeled after the Ancient Greek Dionysia, a festival of plays that typically featured three tragedies and a comedy. Mac, however, has switched the order and written three comedies and a tragedy. Gary is the latter, which may come as a surprise considering the cast is a trio of comedic heavyweights—Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen, and Julie White—giving some of the funniest performances of their careers.
“Even though it’s very funny at times, it’s ultimately a tragedy,” Mac explains. The story of two servants who can’t agree on how to deal with the carnage in front of them, Gary addresses the polarization of American liberals. It’s a play about the different ways in which we posit how to make the world a better place—and how those drive us apart.
But make no mistake: Gary is a laugh-out-loud kind of production. “Because it was inspired by the Greeks, I wanted it to have an old-comedy influence—which is why you have a mixture of lowbrow humor and highbrow considerations,” Judy says. The style of comedy in Gary evolves, an arc that mirrors the title character’s journey—a clown attempting to transcend into something more meaningful. His final moments in the play, Mac says, should surprise and move you.
“I hope that our hearts expand [when seeing the play],” says Mac. “I hope that we find more room for all different kinds of people, and I hope that we consider our ability to invent solutions instead of to hunker down into the same.” The playwright’s hope is that the audience will walk away feeling like there are creative solutions to America’s current polarization. “It’s saying, ‘We can use our creativity and our ingenuity to change.’”