Shadow Play (1961 The Twilight Zone episode)

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"Shadow Play"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 62
Directed by John Brahm
Written by Charles Beaumont (adapted from his short story, "Traumerei")
Production code 173-3657
Original air date May 5, 1961
Guest actors

Dennis Weaver: Adam Grant
Harry Townes: District Attorney
Wright King: Paul Carson
Bernie Hamilton: Harmonica Playing Inmate

Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Silence"
Next →
"The Mind and the Matter"
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"Shadow Play" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.

Opening narration[edit]


A man convicted of murder, Adam Grant (Weaver), tries to convince those about to execute him that the world all around them is just his recurring nightmare. The story opens with the jury finding Grant guilty of murder and the judge sentencing him to death. He laughs uncontrollably and then rants that he refuses to die again. He claims that the district attorney and lawyers are all people he has known in his past who are playing parts in his dream.

Speaking to others including his cellmate and the district attorney he points out obvious logical errors accepted as normal by those around him such as the fact his arrest, trial and execution are happening on the same day and the fact the prisoners seem to stereotypically look like what you'd see in a story. The district attorney is persuaded to visit Grant by his friend, a reporter who is questioning reality given the unlikely perfect life that he enjoys. He speaks to Grant but does not believe him. He asks Grant if he cares about dying if it's all a dream. Grant explains that he cannot get a decent night's sleep because he always wakes up screaming. He tells the district attorney to go home and he will find that what he thought was for dinner will be something else.

This happens and unnerves the district attorney, who discusses the issue with a friend. The friend reasons that the man's claims constitute reasonable doubt as to his sanity, and that the district attorney should ask the governor to issue a stay of execution. With reservations, he places the call and asks the governor to do so as Grant is being prepared for execution. He tells the reporter that the governor said he would make the necessary phone call. The stay of execution arrives too late, and we discover that Grant was correct: the world was a dream for them and a nightmare for him. Everything vanishes and goes dark.

Grant then finds himself in the courtroom being sentenced to death for murder again, with the same people each now in different roles (e.g., a fellow inmate is now the judge behind the bench).

Closing narration[edit]


It was remade under the same title as part of the 1980s series of the show where Peter Coyote plays Adam Grant.

References in popular culture[edit]

In Werner Herzog's series of films, On Death Row, Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner refers to this episode when discussing his feelings about his numerous stays of execution.[1]

Rory Gallagher and Joy Division both used this title for songs.

The X-Files episode "Monday" was inspired by Shadow Play.

See also[edit]


  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0

External links[edit]