The House Theatre’s third rendition of Phillip C. Klapperich and Jake Minton’s adaptation of the E.T.A. Hoffmann holiday standard “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” marks a self-described “new tradition” for the ten-year-old company. And it’s a welcome one. Opening with a ten-minute introduction that’s as emotionally charged (and devoid of dialogue) as the memorable intro to Pixar’s “Up, ” Christmas joviality is transformed into calamity with the news of a son’s death at war. As a fallen Christmas tree is carried from the stage, so is all the joy, until a year later when the rambunctious Uncle Drosselmeyer presents young Clara with the magical nutcracker and the wonder begins. With toys come to life, ukulele solos and fake snow galore, this is a children’s show on many levels, but the layers of the story go deep and the pain of loss and overcoming familial grief provide plenty of fodder for adult audiences. And once the Rat King shows up, children and adults alike will be afraid of the dark. (Zach Freeman)
The House Theatre at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 West Division, (773)251-2195. Through December 30.