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Torch Song Trilogy

Like ''La Cage aux Folles,'' ''Torch Song Trilogy'' is an attempt to sell the gay life style. Through big-buck production values, zany humor, smarmy domestic scenes, and reassurances that the rougher side of gay life is eschewed, playwright Harvey Fierstein says ''See folks, what's the problem?''

''Trilogy'' (three one-act plays that seamlessly join as one) opens the closet door of the gay world, showing us the issues of that life style as a drag queen does his dresses: the sordid bar scene, the emotional wringer of bisexuality, the self-annihilating dependency, the longing for family.

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It's not without charm or wit. But you feel you're worked on the whole time - a grossly self-indulgent 31/2 hours. All the details are arranged to elicit sympathy: Arnold is a drag queen who would really rather be a Jewish mother. He adopts a gay teen-ager and gets him going to school. Ed, Arnold's lover, teaches school, works the family farm, and takes good care of his parents. Those are played up. Ed also gets married, and his ambivalence about his sexual identity harms several lives. That is played down.

This would be more enlightening - and honest - as a documentary. Couched as it is in a Broadway show, it's $32.50 propaganda. (At the Shubert through Sunday.)

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