I'm going to get a cigarette," the actress Natasha Lyonne said by way of greeting. "Do you want to go on the roof?"
One minute later she was puffing away on a Marlboro Light, looking down at the gaudy neon ravine of West 42nd Street. "I usually smoke Marlboro 72's," she said in a husky voice that has been seasoned by tobacco since she was a teenager. "They're shorter. Like something Robert Mitchum would smoke."
The scene was in keeping with the wild-child reputation Ms. Lyonne, 28, has fostered over the past few years, a period that has included stays in jail, the hospital and rehab. But Ms. Lyonne wasn't being bad. She'd just finished rehearsing for the New Group production of Mike Leigh's play "Two Thousand Years," which will begin previews at the Acorn Theater on Jan. 15...
It is a surprise to Ms. Lyonne as much as anyone that she is working at all. Or living, for that matter. After establishing herself in the late 1990s as a talented and refreshingly unorthodox presence in independent films like "The Slums of Beverly Hills" and "But I'm a Cheerleader," her press coverage shifted to the gossip pages and stayed there. In August 2001 she was arrested in Miami Beach on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. Three years later, while occupying a Manhattan apartment rented to her by the actor Michael Rapaport, she was again arrested, this time for threatening her neighbor and the neighbor's dog. Mr. Rapaport evicted her in early 2005, then wrote a damning account of the experience in Jane magazine, detailing Ms. Lyonne's abusive conduct and unhealthy way of life. She later missed several court dates, causing a warrant to be issued for her arrest.
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