Book cover by Andrea Young

The Two-Body Problem

A screenplay by Thomas Farber and Edward Frenkel

Do abstractions matter in the matters of the heart?

The screenplay (revised version) has been published as a book by Andrea Young Arts in 2012.

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Read the review in the Newsletter of the London Mathematical Society

A theater adaptation of The Two-Body Problem is available. The second Staged Reading, directed by Barbara Oliver, was held at the Aurora Theater in Berkeley on November 14, 2011.

The program of the Staged Reading

In mathematics, a "two-body problem" is about the trajectories of two objects interacting only with each other (a star and a planet, for example). This kind of problem has a simple mathematical solution. Not so for two human bodies, however — two lovers, or two friends — as we learn from this story about the limits of art or math, those realms of perfection.

In a beach town in the South of France, a writer and a mathematician happen to meet, start trading stories about bachelor life, relationships, loves lost. Encountering several young women as the day passes, they banter with them about art and mathematics, playfully, passionately — seductively. The two men also begin to see both what bonds them and the ways in which they may greatly differ. That evening, the two men and the women met earlier are partying when a surprising guest shows up, and tensions apparent earlier reach an unexpected conclusion.

The Two-Body Problem evokes the male adventurers of Sideways and Swingers; the mathematical allegories of Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind, and the TV show Numb3rs; and the intricate plotting of Swimming Pool.

Praise for The Two-Body Problem

I kept turning the pages, savoring the dialogue and the story and the sunny south of France. It's something irresistible, as hot as it is smart, a trip to a place where art and math meet dreams and desire. Though comparing it to anything else seems almost ludicrous, consider My Dinner with Andre, but with sex, jokes, hot women, and math. Or Swingers with triple the IQ.

Steven Strogatz: Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University; author of The Calculus of Friendship; contributor to the Opinionator Blog of The New York Times.

It's fun to pick up a book so full of such simple and complex pleasures: beautiful, young, friendly women and sunny, sandy, French beach life; mathematics made easy with enjoyable elucidation, yet our Puritanical demons can happily exult in the final, agonizing pain of the just deserts served at the unsettling conclusion of this brilliant little masterpiece.

Les Blank: Director, Burden of Dreams, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

Original, probing, and funny, taking us through a symmetry of breasts, the sex of numbers 2 and 3, and a "splendid isolation of work" competing with love, marriage, and cell phones.

Ella Thorp Ellis: Author, The Year of My Indian Prince.

The Two-Body Problem is a delicious mix of sensuality, farce and metaphysical mathematics. And yes, that's as rare as it sounds. Humanizing math may be the job of teachers, but making it seductive is the province of artists.

Ira Hauptman: Professor, Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance, Queens College; playwright, Partition and Starry Messenger.

The Two-Body Problem is an adventurous movie romp set on the beaches of the South of France. Sexuality, the craft of Writing, and the mysteries of Mathematics — all strangely converge to make a smart and sexy movie, with unpredictable characters that you've never ever seen before in any film.

Robert Zagone: Director, Read you Like a Book.

In The Two-Body Problem Thomas Farber and Edward Frenkel have created a mesmerizing story about a writer and a mathematician as they examine their lives, their passionate dedication to their respective careers, and their equally passionate desire to find a woman (women?) who can fulfill that other non-professional need. This is certainly worth reading — and seeing!

Barbara Oliver: Director/Actor, Founding Artistic Director, Aurora Theatre Company.

For more, visit Andrea Young Arts.

The Two-Body Problem in the Media

Interview with Thomas Farber in San Francisco Book Review

Interview with Edward Frenkel in Indoor Boys

About The Authors

Author of many works of nonfiction and fiction, including The Beholder and Brief Nudity, and recipient of Guggenheim, National Endowment, Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Dorothea Lange — Paul Taylor fellowships, Thomas Farber is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of California, Berkeley.

Edward Frenkel is a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the winner of the Hermann Weyl Prize in mathematical physics. He is the author of a New York Times bestseller “Love and Math” which has been published in 17 languages.

The Authors's Conversation about the Screenplay, a video by Andrea Young (in 4 parts)


Edward Frenkel's website