Festival (Annie Griffin) 49 – Set during the frenzy of self-promotion that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this tonally shifting ensemble piece lapses out of control from time to time. It starts out by tartly introducing its characters, treating their theatrical endeavors with not a little skepticism. It stays bitter throughout, but from time to time asks the audience to get caught up in a budding romance, and the juxtaposition doesn’t quite work. Less successful still is the subplot that shows what happens when one actor’s demons stop being confined to the stage.
This sour approach works to an extent, and if it was pulled off, it certainly would have been more interesting than feel-good inanity. As is, this brand of wide-ranging satire is probably best left to masters like Altman. The difference between Altman’s best films and Griffin’s is that in his you believe the scenes continue after the scene ends. Here, the script plays out like a series of skits, dampening the impression that we’re watching real people (which is very real in the moments when the characters set off epiphanies in one another). Lucy Punch, who plays a sycophant comedienne with sass and self-interest, is the clear standout among the cast.