June 10, 2015

Strolling in stiletto heels amid the audience members, Panti gauged the crowd packed into the little auditorium at the Irish Arts Center. Then she gave a warning: Anyone seeking “inspiring words of wisdom” from her show would leave disappointed. It’s not every drag queen who has to manage expectations this way. But for Panti — a Dublin-based performer also known, offstage, as Rory O’Neill — things have been a little weird ever since she gave an address last year at the Abbey Theater. The topic was homophobia, and a video of it went viral. The Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole, invoking a 19th-century statesman, described it as “the most eloquent Irish speech since Daniel O’Connell was in his prime.” Panti’s ensuing life as a bona fide national treasure, as she derisively calls herself, is the ostensible topic of “High Heels in Low Places,” her New York stage debut — though she inserts a dismissive, unpublishable modifier between national and treasure.