Sue (the superb Corinna Burns) is a traveling nurse: She lives nowhere, and goes from short-term job to short-term job. Defensive, prickly, quick to take offense, she contacts Bruce (the equally superb Keith Conallen) after a month of silence. (Well, as she points out, it was actually four weeks: She's a stickler for accuracy.) Announcing that she has three things to say, and unwilling to even take her coat off, she informs Bruce that (1) she likes him, (2) she doesn't want to see him again, and (3) she's pregnant.
The only reason she tells him No. 3 is that he had told her he was sterile, so this is momentous news for him. For her, it's just another inconvenience, another annoyance in an annoying world; she believes the worst of everyone, convinced that "our baser natures are our base nature."
When Bruce turns up in Phoenix, where the abortion clinic she's chosen is located, their relationship gets emotionally complicated, despite the fact that their conversational mode is almost entirely verbal fencing and put-ons and clever comebacks. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, they like each other, and, more important, since this is a play, we like them. And despite his belief that "there are no miracles, just the stupid [nonsense] that befalls us," they manage to get past each other's heartaches and defense systems. Bruce is witty and endlessly forgiving and contrite; Sue, at the mercy of her hormones and a deep, morbid belief in the pointlessness of life, nevertheless softens.
Directed by Candace O'Neil Cihocki on a minimal set, Phoenix gives us an engrossing hour and a half, and, true to the promise of its title, gives us something close to a happy ending - as happy as the contemporary vision can legitimately provide. Two cheers for hookups.
Follow Toby Zinman on Twitter at #philastage.
Presented by Flashpoint Theatre Company at Second Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. Through May 28. Tickets $15-$20. Information: 215-665-9720 or www.flashpointtheatre.org