"Noah's Ark" on NBC-TV 

A Flood of Laughter

Excuse me?

You just might find yourself saying that a lot if you elect to watch "Noah's Ark" this Sunday and Monday (May 2-3) at 9 p.m. on NBC-TV. And watch it you should.

"Noah's Ark," starring John Voight as Noah and Mary Steenburgen as his wife Naamah, seems to work, like Mr. Spock's chess set on "Star Trek," on several planes at once. If you don't pay strict attention, it's a simple Bible story, told just as you've heard it so many times — but with a plethora of snappy TV special effects, especially the scenes of the flood.

But if you watch and listen closely, it's even more. At first you'll wonder whether it's just you. But then you'll realize that this version of the story is playful, even twitchy at times, as it flirts with cosmic comedy. Clearly the writers had a fun time.

Take, for example, the scene in which Lot and his wife flee Sodom after dire warnings from God via Noah. Lot's wife looks back, as you'll recall, and is forthwith transformed into a pillar of salt. Bemused, Lot breaks off a salty finger to keep as a memento.

Then there's the scene in which God — who speaks with Noah's voice, incidentally — tells Noah to build a 300-cubit ark. "That's a large ark," says Noah. "I think big," says God. "I made the world in six days." This is, indeed, a casual and chatty God.

Who'd have ever expected such a thing. This "Noah's Ark" is either Biblical mind candy, or a hip, with-it, totally now version of an old story. What a

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