Contributed by
Prerna Bihani, College of Charleston
Fermat's Last Tango is an intelligently written, hilarious fantasia
based on Andrew Wiles' 1993 proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. The main plot consists of a love triangle between Daniel
Keane (fictional character playing Wiles), his wife Anna Keane, and
Fermat (and Mathematics). There are a few exaggerations, for example
possibly in the portrayal of Anna's character (she is jealous of
Keane's obsession with the proof and math, and incessantly begs him
to instead spend intimate moments with her, which probably makes it
somewhat hard to imagine that Nada Wiles has earned a doctorate in
Microbiology.) However, the play marvelously captures the frustration
and trauma that Keane experiences after Fermat discovers a “big,
fat hole” in the original proof. After expressing much
condescension for modern mathematics (and mathematicians), Fermat and
other occupants of the heavenly `Aftermath': Newton,
Pythagoras, Gauss, and Euclid, offer to let Keane enter this celestial ring after death, but only if he is able to mend his
proof. Later on, these expired mathematicians try to catch up with
twentieth century mathematics by scouring several books, but are
unsuccessful, mostly because of their nostalgia for classical mathematics
(for instance, Euclid is disheartened to learn about
“NonEuclidean” geometry and its extensive use!). Meanwhile,
Keane miserably plunges in his desperate search of the unknown light that
would resolve his proof. He even pleads Fermat to disclose his proof,
but the legendary mathematician evades this imploration by echoing that
he doesn't wish to lose his `precious immortality'.
Finally, on Anna's birthday (though not on this day in reality; it
actually takes around sixteen months for Wiles to fix his proof), when
Keane is just about to resign from his endeavor and relieve his married
life, a revelation strikes through, and Keane discovers his
`success in a seed of [his] failure'!
This musical is packed with humor, and despite some exaggerations for
dramatic effects, it provides an approximate insight on Andrew
Wiles' experience (as Wiles claims it does). Though light on
mathematics, it is
rather appealing on both a general and professional level.
