What if heaven was a digital loop of your best memories? Which would you choose? Who would you choose? Washington Ensemble Theatre explores making this difficult and perhaps not-too-far-off choice with their regional premiere of Michael Mitnick’s Ed, Downloaded. In this high-tech love story, Ed (Noah Benezera) falls for the quirky Ruby (Adria LaMorticella), despite his engagement to the stern Selene (Gin Hammond). When Ed dies, the two women are left to put together the pieces of his memories in order to discover which of them he truly loved.
In the play, you can pay to download up to 10 memories to relive in a “forevertorium,” and we decided to keep with the that theme for our review instead of just tossing out straightforward review lines like “never could I imagine laughing so hard at a play about a terminal illness” or “Michael Mitnick’s script involves a hypothetical future, yet it remains unbelievably human throughout.” If we were going to relive this play, here’s what we’d want to remember (and what we’d rather forget):
Adria LaMorticella’s Performance
It’s easy to understand why Ed falls for the spunky Ruby; Local actress Adria LaMorticella radiates sweet flirtatiousness in a way that’s unbelievably appealing. She perfectly delivers the most endearing lines and movements in the play.
The Heart of Michael Mitnick’s Script
Mitnick deftly combines the bitterness of loss with all the sparkling joy and humor of love. It’s no surprise that listening to a man's last moments could be heartbreaking, but who know they could also be elating and hilarious? The play’s sharp pacing and expertly placed moments of humor deftly handle the heart wrenching topics.
Matt Holmes’s Video Elements
We take for granted that memories are distorted and subject to change over time. But the Washington Ensemble Theatre plays with this convention by making the production part live action and part film. First, the audience watches a scene on a sparse stage, filling in the gaps in the scenery by imagining the setting. Then when that same scene is revisited in a video representing Ed's memory, and the audience suddenly sees all the details; all that was meant to be imagined. Ironically, the memory becomes the most detailed, fully realized moment.
Mitnick’s Unrealized Male Lead
Ed is the namesake of the story, but his influence on the plot is entirely indirect. It’s impressive to have a play speed ahead even after its title character dies, but the character himself feels too passive and bland to be fully engaging. Despite some suspicious overlaps with Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (dominant, quirky female lead + wilting male protagonist + sci-fi memory tragedy) Ed, Downloaded hits the right balance between comedy and poignancy. We just wish Ed himself seemed more essential before his final recorded monologue.
The Glowing Elephant Finale
Ed, Downloaded’s awe inspiring ending is mysterious, heartbreaking, and ultimately touching. We’d say more, but we don’t want to spoil it.
Thru Feb 24, Washington Ensemble Theatre, $20