Absurdity comes out at night in 'Graveyard'

Online comedy series begins second season

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'Graveyard' scene

Actors Christian Stolte, left, and David Pasquesi, right, get ready for a take as Alex Malm holds the cue card during a scene from "Graveyard." (Chicago Tribune / May 18, 2012)

People do ridiculous things in the middle of the night. Questionable things. Like decide they will shoot the entire season of a Web series — all 14 episodes, with 50 pages of dialogue — before the sun comes up.

In fact, when director Ron Lazzeretti thinks about "Graveyard," the clever postage stamp of a sitcom that he created with Chicago actors David Pasquesi and Christian Stolte — and indeed shoots it in a single night, from dusk to dawn — a line from "The Sun Also Rises" floats in his brain: "It's awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing."

Meaning (in this case, anyway), it's easy to question the logic of making 14 short films in nine hours.

But not while you're doing it.

The season premiere of "Graveyard" (which goes online Tuesday at thegraveyardshow.com and on YouTube), the remaining 13 new episodes (which will be posted every other week) — everything was shot last summer on a Saturday night in a nondescript Downers Grove office park so undistinguished that it would be hard to identify shades of gray. The production was the only anomaly for blocks, a thicket of filmmaking equipment glowing beneath stage lights erected in a lobby that looked out on an empty parking lot. The space was theirs until sunrise.

The six-member crew darted about, adjusting and dusting and prepping. While Stolte rehearsed his movements, Pasquesi sat behind a desk, the script splayed open before him, reading his lines, rereading his lines, then staring into the middle distance. A building supervisor stopped by to see if everything was OK.

Producer Ed Amaya assured him it was, but then, looking about, added with a nervous chuckle: "Maybe the math isn't in our favor on this one." Later, Lazzeretti said: "We made the first season of 'Graveyard' this way, we're making the second season this way. And maybe we'll need to make it easier when we do a third season, because I am literally factoring in at some point (that) everyone hits a sleep-deprived state and begins to get a little loopy. Still … I don't know, to make a series about two guys who talk in the middle of the night about shaving and children's art and stuff — the schedule would need to be dictated by the material, no?"

Yes.

For instance, in one of the first new episodes of this surprisingly little-seen, existentialist Internet gem, Pasquesi, a longtime staple of the Chicago stage who plays an overnight security guard, and Stolte, a similarly familiar Chicago theater actor who plays an overnight janitor, find themselves in the following exchange:

Pasquesi: "Growing a beard?"

Stolte: "Nope."

Pasquesi: "Got news for you: You're growing a beard."

Stolte: "I just haven't shaved."

Pasquesi: "That's growing a beard."

It's the kind of absurdist chat you get into at 3 in the morning. Or maybe, as Stolte's character does, you complain about the incoherence of your children's refrigerator art ("That is the closest she's ever come to a circle"). Or you offhandedly ask "God or no God?" (then hear back: "GOD! No, wait, no God, no God … I'm sorry. God.") Or you wistfully consider Katherine Heigl ("If I could just talk to her I could make her see how fortunate she is …"). Or as Pasquesi's guard offhandedly does, you muse on the meaning of it all: "As night turns into dawn, it invites the mind to consider the abstract, the unusual, the cosmic connectivity of things," (to which Stolte sighs, grunts and replies: "I suppose it does"). That is about the closest we get to a mission statement.

"Graveyard" has no plot.

Episodes are roughly three minutes long. It has two actors and one location (we never see outside the lobby). It is about men who work at uneventful jobs while the world snores. It is made with two cameras that Lazzeretti never moves an inch; instead, he holds a wide-angle shot of Pasquesi, thin and knifelike, and Stolte, round and Gummy Bear-like, and simply lets them converse. The effect is droll and minimalist. A couple of years ago, when the trio first met in Pasquesi's Old Town apartment to talk about making a Web series, Lazzeretti said he pictured a live-action "Peanuts," deadpan and fatalistic, its characters always wearing the same shirts.

Imagine Pasquesi's desk as Lucy's psychiatric clinic and Stolte as Charlie Brown, and you can see it.

On the other hand, the series is so evocative of those still, soundless moments in the middle of the night when nothing seems to make a peep, you could also imagine that this is a show about the last two people on Earth. Or, considering the sleek lobby and symmetry of Pasquesi's desk, a show set in deep space.

"The sort of slight, ephemeral things that get noticed on YouTube, this isn't that," Pasquesi said. "I don't believe that is our audience. To be honest, I don't know what our audience is. Our audience is us, maybe."

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