Lepers, Sun Partners, Inc., at the Theatre Building. When Lepers first opened, a little more than three years ago at Cafe Voltaire, it had all the earmarks of a long-running late-night show: a darkly comic script, a taboo-flouting subject (sexual perversity in the 90s), intelligent direction, and lots of nudity. The show moved to Shattered Globe, but then the producers inexplicably closed it. Almost a year later they reopened it at Strawdog with a different director and a younger, prettier, better-endowed but less theatrically adept cast–and lots more gratuitous nudity. This version didn’t run forever either.

Now Lepers has been revived again, with James M. Schneider back as director and a strong, comically adept cast. Unfortunately, playwright Neil Labute has spent the years since the original Lepers opened ruining–I mean, fiddling with his script, adding scenes, expanding some roles, and making the play overall much darker and less funny. The original play may have run 90 minutes tops–I was so absorbed I didn’t check my watch. This flabbier version runs a good two hours, and the additional 30 minutes pass very slowly indeed. One of the low points of the didactic last half is a long, flaccid monologue that seems to blame white heterosexual males’ racism on compulsive masturbation.

Not all of Labute’s changes are bad. Will Carpenter’s angry young seducer, Man #3, is no longer a stock misogynist but a real, flawed human being. But for every positive change there are two negative ones, and Schneider’s strong, character-based direction can’t make the show look like its leaner, sexier, funnier, younger self.

–Jack Helbig