Marin Ireland says no one was more surprised than she was that she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play for the role of Steph in Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty. “I really did not expect it, so I woke up at 9:30 that day, and when I checked my phone and I had 38 messages — and I still thought it must be about something else than getting a Tony Award nomination,” she says. “I feel like I’ve seen so many performances this year that I think are Tony worthy that I honestly can’t believe I squeaked through to be among the five nominees. And then, to see my name next to Angela Lansbury, it feels like I’m on another planet.”
In the play, the volatile Steph dumps Greg, her longtime boyfriend (played by fellow Tony Award nominee Thomas Sadoski) after she finds out he told a co-worker that her face was just “regular.” The remark unleashes first a string of profanity in the apartment they share, and a later a vicious verbal attack on Greg in the food court of a local mall. But these acts pale in comparison to what Ireland has done in her previous Off-Broadway work (such as her recent work in Sarah Kane’s Blasted), says the actress.
“In a funny way, the thing that was the most terrifying about taking on this part was just having to be vulnerable and the most like myself that I’ve had to be on stage in a long time. So many of the characters that I’ve played have been so extreme with really over the top elements,” she says. “In the end, Steph is just a regular girl and that’s the sneaky trick of the play, both for me and for the audience.”
Playing the plain girl has had some effect on Ireland’s offstage appearance, she admits. “I remember trying on some fancy dresses and things for opening night, and I chose one that was all sequins, because I thought maybe I have to put on this kind of outfit,” she says. “There is definitely that part of you that feels like you have to overcompensate for playing Steph.”