More gender face-offs in Macdonald's latest talkathon, again set in a middle-class Irish, socially buoyant society at the turn of the century. Here, married or ex- couples probe and then take deadly aim with feelings--love, lust, jealousy, hatred--until it seems that all desires are at last known...maybe. Wealthy, generally nasty old Ebenezer O'Dea, wheelchair-bound and nursed by beautiful spinster Diana Powers, sees the possibility of mean sport in creating a human ``zoo'': He will buy Mount Venus, a mansion built in 1804, for a medical clinic to be presided over by rising young doctor Michael Raven. Raven's wife Lucy, mother of four, who's been innocently galloping through his money, will be the happy go-between. Meanwhile, Ebenezer stirs the cauldron: Diana, to be named at his insistence ``matron'' of the clinic, was once engaged to Raven and bore a son; Lucy had a tendre for Ebenezer's now-tamed nephew Dazzler O'Dea; and Diana is courted by architect Philip, once devoted to Lucy. Also arriving is the implausible stage-Irish Bridie Kelly, omnipresent spy for Ebenezer (she performs naughtier duties cheerfully enough). Bridie is also out for education, reading the Greats and drawing her own conclusions: ``The shortest distance between two points is not long enough to be worth looking at.'' There are jaunts, hanky-panky, and a long series of conversational battles with a dumping of British reticence (most are Catholic, all are Irish) until all is, if not sorted out, at least aired. But as Diana observes, this is not a play where problems are solved within hours; rather, ``This is real life--where people talk-talk-talk for years and years and nothing ever changes.'' Talk-talk-talk and much of it bright and appealing--though, overall, the whole is a shade less lively than Macdonald's feisty- lady portraits (A Woman Alone, 1991, etc.) or the gossipy Hell Hath No Fury (1992).