The convention in English for at least five hundred years has been that when you are describing an existing story/novel/drama/opera you employ the present tense, as if the story were unfolding before your eyes. Correspondingly, you write of the author as if he were alive and present.
I fancy (it is no more than a guess) that this convention arose to mark a distinction between the original telling and the re-telling. (Note that narrative (non-dramatic) forms usually employ the past tense, casting the story as virtual history, although this convention does not hold in ‘performed’ genres such as the joke or folktale). The convention may have been reinforced by the 16th- to 18th-century practice of setting a play’s scene with a present-tense narrative prologue; this practise carried over to the ‘argument’ which often introduced a printed version.
Irrealis forms such as your friend proposes would be quite inappropriate. These are used only for hypothetical, projected tellings, narratives which have not yet been realized—scenarios under development, for instance, as in skymninge's Comment, or grant proposals. A finished narrative does not represent a hypothetical but a virtual reality.