For one-week only, “Family Ties” stars Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter reunite in Totem Pole Playhouse’s production of “Love Letters.” The show, running from August 22-27 at the summer theater in Fayetteville, features the story of two characters told through letters exchanged over a lifetime of two people who grew up together, went their separate ways but continued to share confidences. Baxter, an Emmy-nominated, said she has played the character of Melissa Gardner before with other partners but said it’s the first time playing opposite Gross. She said she has felt a connection with the character she is playing from the beginning.
“I identify with several aspects of her life,” she said. “I love her and walking around in her shoes. I find her so fascinating.”
Gross said this show comes at a very “poignant” time in his life as he recently got the stack of letter correspondence that his father wrote his mother during World War II and will be reading through them.
“It’s a sweep of characters,” Michael said. “Because the show is primarily in written communication, the written word is the most important.”
The show is being directed by Judith Ivey, two-time Tony Award winner, who expressed her excitement in watching the actors bring these characters to life.
“The show demonstrates the universal nature of friendship that crosses over and become a love relationship,” Ivey said. “I hope people recognize themselves in part of the show.”
In a press conference before opening night, members of the media asked the couple about their days on screen playing the couple Steven and Elyse Keaton in the popular 80’s show “Family Ties.”
“He was my best friend, probably my only friend for 7 years,” Baxter said, laughing. “I trust him on the stage. It makes me so happy to be working with him again.”
“Reuniting was wonderful,” Gross said. “It is like picking where we left off.”
Gross and Baxter have stayed in touch over the years and have reunited for small roles, such as Santa and Mrs. Claus for the Hallmark movie “Becoming Santa” but it is the first time the two will be playing opposite in this show. And the 342-seat theater is the “perfect” theater for the piece, Gross said.
“The audience is with us in this show,” Ivey added. “The intimacy of the small theater is needed for a show like this.”
Rowan Joseph, artistic director of Totem Pole Playhouse, has expressed his gratitude to the performers and the community which has been supportive in making many sold-out shows in 2017 and is set to have a record-breaking year. Their most recent show “Million Dollar Quartet” is expected to make approximately $325,000.
“Many of the performers we get here haven’t been in something this small in a long time,” he said. “There is just an opportunity here you can’t get anywhere else.”
Both Gross and Baxter told the media that making theater accessible to more people was something that they both were passionate about, especially encouraging younger people to get involved.
“You go on an intimate journey [with live theater],” Baxter said. “It’s so hard to do that on TV. They are telling you what to feel when in theater you can see it.”
“I think there’s a sense of danger,” Gross said, smiling. “It’s live. This is a performance that will vary from night to night.”
The show runs August 22-27 and tickets are $35. Tickets are available online at www.totempoleplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 1-888-805-7056.