Lanford Wilson was poetic even in his passing. The playwright, who premiered Burn This at the Mark Taper Forum 24 years ago, passed away on March 23, 2011, the night the Taper began previews of its first revival production of the play. Even the play's premise feels eerily symbolic: Shaken by the unexpected death of their friend Robbie, three friends find themselves confronting their paralyzed lives. Anna, consumed by her career as a dancer, struggles to create an exciting personal life, but chooses a safe lover in Burton. Wilson introduces an unlikely savior: Robbie's runaway train wreck of a brother, Pale. Crashing wildly into Anna's loft after an all-nighter, Adam Rothenberg's Pale is the hot, pounding heart of this production: As the radiator hisses on, he tells Anna, "I deliver water. I put out fires… but sometimes you just let it burn." Clutching at his heart, which is "fucking killing" him, and continuing on a coke-fueled rant that ranges from trash-talking the neighborhood to shedding tears over his brother's death, Pale finishes his first scene with a seduction so sexy that he's clearly throwing wood, not water, on this fire. Brooks Ashmanskas, as Anna's gay roommate Larry, is flamboyantly funny but still fleshes the character beyond campiness. Ken Barnett's Burton is purposefully boring. Zabryna Guevara's Anna, with her canned vocal inflections and forced emotion, is the stiffest of the cast. A special nod to Ralph Funicello's set, whose vast, underused space perfectly suits the characters' stunted lives. Coursing with adrenaline, Burn This spurs you as if a firecracker nearly went off in your hand. Live, Wilson shouts, NOW. Nicholas Martin directs. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; thru May 1. 213-628-2772, centertheatregroup.org.
Sundays, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Starts: April 3. Continues through May 1, 2011