The ASTA Theatre, where a musical called "TimeSteps" opened last weekend, proposes a new role for itself: as a showcase house for budding New York productions. As if to emphasize the New York orientation, one of the songs in "Timesteps" is called "Broadway, My Home Town."

Unfortunately, "TimeSteps" is not about to take Herald Square by storm, let alone Broadway. It is a lethargic and musty little show that threatens to peter out, along with its performers, before it ever leaves ASTA.

Author William Bremer apparently ransacked every stale show biz plot ever used by the movies or the Carol Burnett movie parodies, trying to find something fresh. He failed. In his story, three small-towners try to make it big in vaudeville, nightclubs, the movies and radio. They fail, too, for the most part, and the ASTA performances bring the evening to its knees.

Stanley Wayne Mathis, who has a supporting role, is the only performer with consistently professional flair. The others are adept primarily at smiling and nudging the audience in an attempt to elicit more smiles. Neal Tate's score, which may include a nice melody or two, is mangled.

Geoffrey Austin's set is simple and serviceable, so why does it take forever to change from one scene to the next? The person who changes the props between scenes tries to be cute in a manner that induces unkind thoughts.

ASTA has no business thinking of Broadway as its hometown. New York doesn't need ASTA, and Washington does, as long as ASTA can refrain from missteps like "TimeSteps."