The thing about a murder on a boat is this: You can dump the body overboard and no one will be the wiser.

Unless of course it makes a loud splash.

“The last time we did this, we threw the body overboard,” said Julie Poulin, a veteran of the Mystery for Hire dinner theater troupe. “Really it was the captain throwing a five gallon bucket in the water. But it sounded good.”

Poulin was talking about the last time that the Maine-based Mystery for Hire troupe — which was founded in 1995 — did a dinner theater murder mystery play aboard the Songo River Queen II, which cruises out of Naples.

Poulin has been with the troupe for 16 years, doing variously themed murder mystery plays on boats, at function halls, at corporate events. The key, she says, is being able to read the audience and figure out how to get them engaged.

“In these shows, the audience becomes part of the crime. So you have to think quick, because every audience is different,” said Poulin. “Sometimes it’s somebody heckling you, or yelling at your character. People know what they’re coming for, so they want to be engaged.”

On Friday, the Mystery for Hire troupe will be back about the Songo River Queen II for their original show “Murder at My High School Reunion.”

Folks are encouraged to wear vintage clothes from their own high school era, or dress up as their inner high school character.

Poulin will be playing the gym teacher, sort of like the overbearing gym teacher/cheer coach on TV’s “Glee.”

“She’s very domineering, and funny, in a ‘we all need discipline’ kind of way.”

The play deals with a high school reunion and the mystery is, what has happened to the star football player? But for more info than that, you have to board the ship.

Mystery for Hire was started in 1995 by Dan Marois and his wife, Denise.

The troupe has done more than 500 interactive dinner theater shows at restaurants, for fundraisers, for private parties, and on boats.

“We’ve performed for 500 people at a college, and we’ve done a show for 12 people in a private function room,” said Dan Marois, 59.

But performing on a boat on a lake in Maine is its own experience.

“When the sun is still out, and everyone gets out on the water, it’s really wonderful,” said Marois. “And we have the whole boat to perform on.”

The Songo River Queen II is a 93-foot- long replica of a Mississippi River paddle wheeler. The Mystery for Hire folks charter it for shows, including the upcoming class reunion mystery.

The boat provides a moving stage, which is appropriate, since a dinner theater mystery is always moving and changing as well.

“You have to know each other and know your audience. We have one member who has a real strength in improv comedy, so if the audience needs a little more grooming, if you will, we send him out,” said Marois. “We have an actress who is the ultimate schmoozer, so sometimes we need that.”

And sometimes you need to throw a big bucket overboard, because creating the right sound effects for a floating dinner theater can be murder.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]