Part cautionary tale for snoops and part advertisement for polyamory, Ed, Downloaded takes place in a nearish future where daily life looks almost exactly the same as ours, but death is a little different. Selene (Gin Hammond) is a rational and uptight technician who works at a "forevertery"—a service that can, for a large fee, download your consciousness, extract happy memories, and keep them digitally "alive" for you to relive in eternity after your physical death. She is a kind of metaphysical insurance agent, selling peace of mind and certainty about the afterlife.
Selene's adorably nerdy geologist boyfriend, Ed (Noah Benezra), is terminally ill and will soon be one of her digital undead, an endless loop of pleasant reminiscences inside a "ForeverBox." Her attitude toward Ed seems more like an indulgent nurse (with a dash of the curious researcher) than a woman about to lose the love of her life. To top it off, Selene's previous husband is also deceased. Death, it seems, becomes her, raising the intriguing possibility of a black widow subplot, but playwright Michael Mitnick doesn't go anywhere with that.
Along comes Ruby (Adria LaMorticella), a flirtatious young street performer who approaches Ed at the geological museum where he works and coaxes him out to lunch. From there, they coax each other into a full-blown affair. Vivacious and playful, Ruby is the Eros to Selene's Thanatos, brightening—and complicating—Ed's final days. When Ed stops contacting her, Ruby shows up to Selene's forevertery to sniff out what's happened. Ed's dead, it turns out, and the two women have a predictable showdown over who meant more to him. ("What we had was so much more than what you had," Ruby snarls. "You spend a handful of happy forbidden days with anybody and it'll seem like a dream," Selene hisses back.) There's only one way to find out—by breaking into Ed's ForeverBox to see who he's remembering.
Those memories, projected onto an upstage wall, take over the second half of the play as Selene barricades herself in the forevertery, obsessively digging into Ed's head and tinkering with its contents. The twin morals of the story are clear: Don't go snooping unless you're prepared to live with what you find, and jealousy can really suck the fun out of life. (Also, don't give your jealous girlfriend the keys to your afterlife.)
Benezra plays amiable Ed with a pleasant and fumbling charm, but Hammond and LaMorticella don't fare so well. Playwright Mitnick has written their characters more as types (cold technologist, sexy artist-ragamuffin) than fully formed human beings. Ed seems to have his own existence, but Selene and Ruby exist only in relation to him. (If it's ever made into a movie, Ed, Downloaded will fail the Bechdel test with an F-minus.) Mitnick finds some wicked glee in the way Selene takes her revenge by manipulating Ed's otherwise happy memories. In one, she makes his mother tell him in a deadly deadpan, "You were a mistake." In another, she forces Ruby to confess that her "carefree demeanor masks a soul that is insecure" and that her cute thrift-store outfits leave homeless people with no choice but to "wear the unfashionable, baggy cast-asides." But this thin thought experiment about the afterlife ultimately brings us to the familiar conclusion: Hell is other people.