American Playhouse (1980–1994)
12 user 3 critic

Who Am I This Time? 

From a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. Christopher Walken is a shy hardware store employee. But whenever he takes a part in a local amateur theater production, he becomes the part completely-... See full summary »


Jonathan Demme


Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (story), Neal Miller (as Morton Neal Miller)




Episode cast overview:
Susan Sarandon ... Helene Shaw
Christopher Walken ... Harry Nash
Robert Ridgely ... George Johnson
Dorothy Patterson ... Doris
Caitlin Hart Caitlin Hart ... Lydia
Les Podewell Les Podewell ... Les
Aaron Freeman Aaron Freeman ... Andrew
Jerry Vile Jerry Vile ... Albert
Paula Frances Paula Frances ... Minnie
Mike Bacarella ... Stage Manager
Ron Parady Ron Parady ... Vern
Debbi Hopkins Debbi Hopkins ... Christie
Maria Todd Maria Todd ... Heather
Sandy McLeod Sandy McLeod ... Flirt #1
Edie Vonnegut Edie Vonnegut ... Flirt #2


From a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. Christopher Walken is a shy hardware store employee. But whenever he takes a part in a local amateur theater production, he becomes the part completely--while on stage. Susan Sarandon is new in town, a lonely itinerant telephone company employee. On a whim, she auditions for and gets the part of Stella to Walken's Stanley when the theater group does A Streetcar Named Desire. Before anyone realizes the growing affection between Helene and Stanley, she falls deeply in love with the sexy brute, not knowing what the real man is like. Written by Reid Gagle (with corrections by Fiona!)

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Did You Know?


In Vonnegut's short story, the character George Johnson is the first-person narrator. He meets Helene while trying to sort out a phone bill and asks her to try out for the local play. See more »


[Right after Helene has sobbed her self-confession to George and Doris, they hear Harry shout from the doorway - in full Stanley Kowalski mode]
Harry Nash: Are you ready for me yet, George? There's nobody else outside!
George Johnson: Harry, come here. I'm, I'm sorry I kept you waiting, Harry. Excuse me.
[Helene surreptitiously wipes her eyes]
George Johnson: Uh, Harry, this is Helene Shaw. Helene, this is Harry Nash. Ehh, now, if you get the part of Stella, he'll be your husband in the play.
See more »

User Reviews

The roles of a lifetime
26 June 2011 | by dimpletSee all my reviews

Films about actors playing actors can easily fall into cliché. But Who Am I This Time gives the concept a truly original and profound twist, while giving the two stars the roles of a lifetime.

I vaguely remember seeing this many years ago, probably when it was on public television in the 1980s, but I don't think it made the impression on me it did this time.

Back then I had barely heard of Kurt Vonnegut, and Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon were just actors. But now I'm a huge fan of Vonnegut, and have seen and admired Walken and Sarandon in countless roles, so I was better able to appreciate the marvelous acting here. And while the story is not 45 degrees off plumb from reality, as with other Vonnegut works like Slaughterhouse Five or Breakfast of Champions, it has the true originality and charm of a great writer.

Many famous actors and actresses fall into well-worn grooves as they get older, playing their personas almost more than their roles. This is not quite true of this pair, but there is a wonderfully fresh creativity to their performances here that you might not see in more seasoned actors. This is vital to their roles because they must transform themselves, both when they switch between their street selves and their community playhouse selves, and as they are transformed over the course of the story.

So the story, itself, demands great acting, but so does the play they perform, A Streetcar Named Desire, surely one of the most demanding of all, which the viewer can appreciate from the great performances of Walken and Sarandon. In Who Am I This Time you see the two leads constantly transforming themselves in a tour de force of acting.

I can't act for beans, but I have heard actors say repeatedly that the key is to truly watch the other actor, and react honestly. You see that exemplified in Sarandon's tryout when she falls flat reading her lines, but soars as soon as she reacts to Walken.

This is set in a small town, much like a thousand other small towns across America, and the key here is to act like real people, to feel like people who could be your neighbors. And that's what the rest of the cast does, avoiding any temptation to ham it up.

But above all, this is a great story with a delightful ending. The chemistry between the two seems so genuine you half expect Sarandon and Walken to get married in real life. I appreciate Who Am I This Time more now, in part because I have seen the later work of these great actors. I hope some interviewer, such as Terry Gross, asks Walken and Sarandon how they feel about this film, little seen in recent years. My guess is they consider it one of their finest works. I also suspect their magnificent performances here helped move their careers into high gear.

But it also benefits from being able to see it on a recording you can control, so you can better compare the performances at different points in the film. For example, in the opening with Cyrano, it is not immediately clear whether you are looking at a great actor or an over- acting ham. You soon realize this guy can really act! You also wonder how many actors are really as shy as Harry Nash, deep down inside.

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Release Date:

2 February 1982 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Hinckley, Illinois, USA See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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