The House’s remount of their successful 2007 holiday show is a very loose adaptation of ETA Hoffman’s classic story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, ” and yet its prologue is still almost ironically evocative of the Tchaikovsky ballet. Cheerful dancing around the Christmas tree turns to tragedy, however, when news arrives of the son’s death at war. A year later, no Christmas party almost means no Christmas, until a surprise visit from Uncle Drosselmeyer, with a gift for Clara of a nutcracker that looks like her brother, upsets the somber balance of the household. The adaptation by company members Phillip C. Klapperich and Jake Minton cleverly psychologizes the tale, spinning the magical battle against darkness and Rat Kings as one against childhood grief and family wounds. The brisk, lively staging never lets you linger on such heavy thoughts for too long, but the actors all have great fun with each other, with the script, and with the audience. You’ll believe in magic again. (Neal Ryan Shaw)
The House Theatre of Chicago at the Chopin Theater, 1543 West Division, (773)251-2195. Through December 26.