For all the play's ferocity, Akalaitis sounds remarkably tender about her return to the Public. "It's wonderful to walk in the door," she says. "It's wonderful to go to production meetings with such an incredible production department. It's wonderful to have a boss like Oskar, who is so smart, so generous, and so brave to be doing this play." For his part, Eustis—a self-confessed "Mabou Mines groupie" who sat in on rehearsals for Cascando three decades ago—describes Akalaitis as "a genuinely fearless artist." "JoAnne," he says, "has been an important person at the Public for 30-some years, and to me, it's very important that she remain part of the Public's family for the rest of her career."
Akalaitis seems willing. In addition to teaching at the Juilliard School and Bard College, she continues to develop new theater pieces, including a play about Sarah Bernhardt, Giacomo Puccini, and Tosca, which has had two workshops at the Public. And next week, when The Bacchae begins previews, New York audiences, like those long ago Thebans, can succumb, once again, to her mysteries.