The avant-garde Wooster Group’s Off Broadway revival of its 1983 Cold War military musical farce, North Atlantic, has as much relevance as ever. And that’s not just because the cast includes recognizable actresses such as Frances McDormand and Maura Tierney. The story — though we use the term loosely here — concerns a Navy crew stationed off the Dutch coast and riffs on gender roles and sex among the ranks. The women often speak in group unison and use the inflection of innocent World War II dames, but clamor for a ”wet uniform contest” and show they can own their sexual desires in terms at least as bawdy as the ones guys use. And the fact that the show raises lingering doubts about whether they’re even on a real mission or merely a decoy operation flirts with recent historical events as well.
McDormand couldn’t be more at home in her commanding role as a master sergeant, and Tierney — back performing after dropping out of NBC’s Parenthood last year to undergo treatment for breast cancer — is at her sexy-cool best as the unlucky nurse who’s caught a visiting general’s eye. The set, built on a steep 45-degree pitch that the actors must often scale, sometimes as it moves, injects an extra sense of urgency and danger. The weird musical interludes, including particularly dirty takes on ”There’s a Place in France” and ”Git Along, Little Dogies,” certainly can’t be accused of being dull. And yet, even with all of these elements working together under Elizabeth LeCompte’s direction, the 90-minute show often drags, obscuring its own points with confounding lack of plot and incomprehensible dialogue. While it’s not riveting storytelling, North Atlantic is a conversation piece that will keep you talking over after-theater drinks. B-
(Tickets: www.smarttix.com / 212 868 4444)