Excerpts from Reviews of Productions Directed by Jeff Culbert...
HUNTING STUART, by Robertson Davies
“Act One cajoles us into a state of amused expectancy. Act Two takes us to dizzying heights of magical fun, never losing sight of Davies' tart social commentary … a rare, wonderful night of theatre”
“A wonderfully witty play … lucid and funny”
ONE-MAN MASQUE, by James Reaney (Jeff Culbert as director/performer)
“His superb work as both director and actor moved the audiences to stand-ups, tears, laughter and exclamations … Jeff's convincing, continuous riot of progressive visual images reminded me of a spiritual Yin and Yang, where the left side and right side of the brain curve in upon each other with startling effects.”
JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK, by Sean O'Casey
"Rock-solid version of one of the greatest English-language plays benefits immensely from Jeff Culbert's dedicated, intelligent direction and a parade of fine character performances from some of London's best actors."
“A palpable picture of the poor in Ireland, showing the values that helped them survive, while still revealing their dark side … a moving indictment of destructive social values in 1920s Ireland”
PROBLEM CHILD, by George F. Walker
"Tragic, comic, depressing, thought-provoking, poignant, bizarre and all too frighteningly real."
"Culbert's actors have tapped the deep veins of incongruity in their characters' lives ... together they achieve greatness ... Culbert's Ausable Theatre production of this masterpiece is a must-see."
"This Ausable Theatre production is just plain masterful ... both humourous and horrific ... a meaty, memorable production"
"A triumph ... remarkable depth ... brings tears of both laughter and sorrow ... a terrifyingly heartbreaking achievement." (4.5 stars)
RISK EVERYTHING, by George F. Walker
"How do you follow up a near perfect first effort? If you're director Jeff Culbert, you do the same thing twice. An absolute gem ... some of the funniest and most touching bits of dialogue in recent dramatic memory ... Ausable has another hit on its hands" (5 stars)
"A funny, savage show ... if anything, more impressive than its predecessor ... direction and acting fire on all cylinders. In the hands of a lesser cast and director, Risk Everything would have been a gamble. But under the assured guidance of director Jeff Culbert and his superb actors their latest offering, along with Problem Child , neatly bookend a stellar year for theatre in London."
"The Ausable Theatre Company has tapped a vein of dramatic gold. Even though the entire action takes place in a motel room, the emotional range and the action make it feel like an entire world of exploitation and despairingly pervasive and inescapable danger."
THE END OF CIVILIZATION, by George F. Walker
"Terrific, must-see theatre ... Watching The End of Civilization after viewing the concurrent production Risk Everything is like opening up two years worth of Christmas presents at once. They are both so well produced, directed and acted it's impossible to recommend one over the other ... Culbert's direction keeps hinting at an explosive rage lurking behind the paper-thin walls ... theatre magic.
BOAT LOAD, by Jayson McDonald
“McDonald and Culbert don't just turn theatrical convention on its head - they wrestle it to the ground, beat it into submission, and then stand it up remade in their own bizarrely entertaining vision. It's theatre that's remarkably fresh, thoroughly engaging, and too good to be true at only nine bucks.”
“A pitch-perfect one-man-show heavy on hilarity and heart”
“You'll laugh and cry at the same time”
“Hilarious and touching … Director Jeff Culbert is the lighthouse that guides McDonald's boat, yet Culbert allows his actor to be the one shining.”
“The show plays out like a finely-tuned symphony.”
THE DONNELLY TRIAL, by Christopher Doty
“an engrossing, even haunting theatre experience … Heightening the aura of authenticity, director Jeff Culbert and his cast present the story in an honest, straightforward manner, without indulging in unnecessary theatrics. During Wednesday night's sold-out performance, 130 spectators sat transfixed in near-reverent silence … The Donnelly Trial couldn't have drawn a more favourable verdict from its audience.”
“This play is a compelling and mesmerizing recreation of the trial that challenges you to make your own judgement about the crime and its victims … a riveting experience in a thrilling recreation of Canadian history … My own verdict is in and I judge this play a masterful dramatic pleasure for all!!”
NOTHING SACRED, by George F Walker
"… dynamic, elegant and enjoyable from start to finish … the simple tableaux were gorgeous and evocative … an intelligent script delivered in an accessible fashion.”
“With a largely empty stage, the players manage to excite our imagination to fill in all the details of the country estate that we could want … The company trusts its audience. Social change can be hard on anyone, but this play … tells a challenging and compelling story where the greatest change can be within ourselves.”
WORK, by James O'Reilly
"A riveting performance ... combines brilliant observation and mockery with pathos ... unforgettable" (4 stars)
"Great humour ... nice vignettes ... Culbert is mesmerizing, an ensemble rolled into one"
"Theatre that's disturbing and hilarious at the same time ... a must-see"
KING PHOENIX, by Robertson Davies
“A long-overdue revival … Ausable artistic director Jeff Culbert has led the way in helping renew interest in Davies' dramas … He wrote plays filled with big ideas, passions and jests. Ausable Theatre has staged five of them and King Phoenix is surely the best of the bunch … The master's own touch could not have been better than this one … Culbert and his London alt-theatre crew reveal the script's true promise and ensure the phoenix rises on stage and Davies' words take flight … The production achieves the right Davies mix of myth and magic, wit and wisdom.”
“Ausable has performed a great service in helping to rehabilitate this fascinating work. In "King Phoenix" Davies dramatizes not just any myth but the ur-myth of birth, death and rebirth. The production is humble but imaginative and is directed with a clear understanding of the text by Ausable Artistic Director, Jeff Culbert. He allows the play to build steadily in meaning and emotion to its very moving conclusion. With "King Phoenix" Ausable Theatre shows us yet again how effective and thought-provoking Davies' plays are in performance. No one who wants to understand Davies or the importance of myth should miss the chance to see this play.”
THE STORY OF THE GENTLE RAIN FOOD CO-OP, by James Reaney
“The play succeeds on stage better than many other adaptations of radio dramas because of the non-naturalistic approach of director Jeff Culbert … The stage is bare except for a vestigial staircase to mark entrances and a few party decorations to create atmosphere. Otherwise, everything is conjured up through mime and the clever use of minimal props. Bicycles handlebars and steering wheels are synecdoches for whole vehicles, puppets represent two twin babies and a man with a box on his head is a radio. The inventiveness of the production and performances are a perfect match for the playfulness of the text. Thanks are due to Ausable Theatre for bringing Reaney's words so strikingly to life.”
“Jeff Culbert's directorial imagination behind these actors' performances was a joy.”
PROBLEM CHILD, by George F Walker
“The mood swings easily between hilarity and tragedy … The performances of all four cast members were outstanding, mixing subtle comic timing with suitable bravado.”
“The action takes place in the upstairs room of a Limerick amusement arcade: the audience is led up a darkened staircase to a candlelit performance space, and the sounds of videogames and shouts from the street below set the scene brilliantly. Jeff Culbert builds on that atmosphere well, directing in a style of cinematic realism that keeps the action zipping along nicely. A darkly humourous blend of sensationalism, strong plotting, and pop-culture references”
“It was excellent; it was really well performed. Well worth going to see. Myles Breen was fantastic.”
“ Problem Child is a joy … Everything happens here: anguish, love, panic, jokes, helplessness, all put into place with stunning performances by the legendary Myles Breen and the incredible Norma Lowney.”
HER WORSHIP, by Peter Desbarats
“After months of marketing the sizzle, Her Worship delivers a surprisingly satisfying steak. The "dramatic comedy" wasn't expected to live up to the huge hype that preceded it. Locally, the public's interest was captured by talk of this play that was "completely fictitious" yet "inspired" by the real-life controversies sparked during Dianne Haskett's tenure (1995 to 2000) as London's mayor … Her Worship actually lives up to all its hype.”
NOVEL HOUSE, by Jayson McDonald
“Ausable theatre has another success on its hands … a humourous and sad story … an intelligent, funny script that moves along well”
“Novel House has great sweetness, wacky humour, lyricism and gentle poignancy .. the performances are all excellent”
THE LOST SOUL STROLL, by Jason Rip
“A fine show … this year's Stroll is an eerie delight that commemorates the underside of London's past. The play may be reusing many previous stories, but the staging arranged for the whole show is refreshing. For instance, Josh Cottrell tells his character's story on a high platform of a building's fire escape; not only does this help accommodate the audience in the alley's limited space, but the parallel to a gallows is unmistakable. The result is that the familiar story is given a new feeling of authority.”
MY FIGHTING SPIRIT, by Jeff Culbert
“( Frights of Spring ) is a feast of brilliantly crafted tales of fantasy and horror in a unique venue that is perfect for presenting them … ( My Fighting Spirit ) was perfect to see as a warm up for the others. Tyler Parr takes the show up to a stunning level of physicality worthy of Buster Keaton, and the sequence in which his character is assaulted by the ghost is frightening within the context of the story and amazing without.”
OVERLAID and EROS AT BREAKFAST, by Robertson Davies
A JIG FOR THE GYPSY, by Robertson Davies
AUSABLE THEATRE'S 2000 SEASON: