Loss, love and a drug-addled personality — juicy ingredients for drama.

And that’s what the late Lanford Wilson gives us in “Burn This,” which Winding Road Theater Ensemble opens in previews tonight.

Director Glen Coffman counts Wilson among his favorite playwrights.

“His voice is so lyrical and so American — or Midwestern, maybe, where I come from,” Coffman says.

“The constant references throughout his work to the outsider, the person who doesn’t fit in, and where and how connection is impossible, is important. … I think he is like the American (Anton) Chekhov; at least to me.”

Here’s a primer to the 1987 play:

The story

Four friends of Robbie, a young gay dancer who died with his lover in a tragic boating accident, meet after the funeral. The loss is deeply felt by the friends: Anna, Robbie’s roommate and choreographer; Burton, a screenwriter and Anna’s lover; Larry, gay and in the advertising business; and Pale, Robbie’s very hyper (no thanks to the coke he snorts) brother, a restaurant manager. The loss of Robbie is the catalyst for an examination of their own lives.

“It’s a love story,” Coffman says. “A love story between two extremely unlikely people. I think that if they can manage to transcend differences of class and upbringing and their societal positions — one is an artist; the other a Jersey street guy — then most anybody can transcend anything.”

“It gets dark; what can I tell you?” Wilson once said about the play. Still, says Coffman, there’s a good amount of humor.

“The play’s really funny, like all of his plays,” Coffman says. “He’s not a frivolous playwright, but really funny.”

The action

The play takes place in New York City, which playwright Wilson had said was key to the story.

“The main couple (Anna and Pale) are both suffering from grief,” Coffman says. “Neither one is particularly interested in, or connected to, emotions. … The emotions are very volcanic, and they are completely unprepared.”

The message

“If these two unlikely people can transcend their grief and fear … and find a way to connect on a real level, that’s a huge thing,” Coffman says.

“If more of us could do that, we’d have a much happier world.”

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.