Hitt hits hard with comedy and pain

The Post and Courier
By Bill Thompson

The Great Hittini, master sorcerer of word and wit, has not lost his touch.

And through 90 minutes of stand-up serio-comedy, captive (or, rather, captivated) audience members at the Emmett Robinson Theatre were enthusiastic Hittites.

Jack Hitt’s touring one-man show, “Making Up the Truth,” is that rara avis, science in the service of comedy, and so engagingly navigated by its writer-actor that one enjoys absorbing a bit of knowledge in the process.

Directed by Jessica Bauman, the Spoleto Festival production was originally developed for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Conn.

And ideas are at its core. That and a carriage ride through Hitt’s Charleston youth, where eccentrics were the exotica of choice and Hitt’s eventual emergence as a keen observer of the American scene first found its font.

This, woven through the latest discoveries in cognitive research, in which neuroscientists suggest that our facile brains are very much the authors of our stories. More, as Hitt relates, that we are our stories — “an act of defiance” that brings order to the chaos of perception.

While some anecdotes may be analytical wishful thinking, most have the buttressing of evidence and the warp and woof of reality (whose narrative our handy brains also edit).

Hitt opened with recollections of famed Holy City transsexual Dawn Langley Simmons (nee, Gordon Langley Hall), the late author and biographer whose own story helped Hitt realize that a narrative is not a static thing that merely chronicles what happens, but an improvisation “toward a central truth.”

“Scientists tells us the present tense lasts only three seconds,” Hitt said, “But what we perceive in the present tense, in large measure, is based on what we’ve learned in the past.”

Our cranial companion is a “creative editing machine” and that in the milliseconds before we perceive something we’ve already “revised it to fit our own private world view,”

Hitt’s on-stage style is confiding and expository, with clever asides on the glorious absurdities of life and a comic timing that would be the envy of many.

The voice of Hitt the Peabody-Award-winning writer, among the most admired authors and magazine journalists of his generation, is very much the voice of Hitt the raconteur — quick yet measured, with a natural bent toward the gravity well of the offbeat.

We also learn of his misadventures in New York with a blustering apartment building landlord, who may have led a ruthless death squad in his native Brazil, of laughter as an evolutionary strategy, and of all the flawed but fascinating permutations of sound and sight.

All as Hitt tight-wires across the chasm between hilarity and pain.

© 2019 Jessica Bauman
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